Since his death from cancer in the early 1980s, Bob Marley has become something of a music world Che Guevara; reduced to a simple image of an upwardly looking dreadlocked head in front of a rainbow, specifying a broad and ill-defined image of rebellion.

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So the first international reggae superstar is a deserving subject for a rounded, comprehensive documentary by one of Britain’s best film-makers.

Marley the film is designed to be the authorised, definitive biography. All the family are on board, everybody has been rounded up for an interview, the archives have been rummaged through and almost anybody with a stake has been handed some kind of producer credit. With that many interested parties it perhaps isn’t surprising that this a very straightforward work made up almost entirely of interviews and archive footage.

Coming from the man who gave us One Day in September, Touching the Void and Life in a Day, this is a little disappointing but in an age where documentary film-making is often a pretext for an exhibitionist’s flight of fancy, it is nice to have some good, solid, dependable reporting.

It is nothing if not thorough and as a viewer you sense that you are getting something close to the full story.

There is a lot of it though. If George Harrison is worthy of four hours (Scorsese’s Living in the Material World) I guess we shouldn’t begrudge Marley two-and-a-half.

The second half of the film in which Marley becomes a global star and has to deal with the political street violence in Kingston is engrossing but during the first hour, as the film negotiates how reggae grew out of the ska scene in Trenchtown, it did occasionally feel like being sentenced to a Friday night in watching BBC4.

MARLEY (15)

Director: Kevin MacDonald

Featuring: Rita Marley, Cedella Marley, Neville Livingston, Ziggy Marley, Chris Blackwell and Neville Garrick

Length: 144 mins

***

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