By: Rashida Z. Buchanan

Photo/Video: PARAMOUNT Pictures

‘Bob Marley: One Love’ is a film made for Jamaicans everywhere, for African-diaspora folks everywhere, and for every person who was touched by his music. The parallels of when his music was created matched tranquilly with their associated scenes. Indeed it was a film that expressed the nuances of his life. He was a man—not a perfect man—but he celebrated – One Love!

It was January 23rd on a cool Tuesday night as celebrity Jamaicans and their visiting foreign counterparts readied themselves in high anticipation for the first-time public screening of arguably the most important Jamaica-centred film in over 50 years since the acclaimed ‘The Harder They Come’ (1972) movie.

The premiering of Bob Marley: One Love movie is a celebration of this Jamaican icon; a legacy that Jamaicans have been waiting to be immortalized, and finally here it is; a biopic centred on the legendary Bob Marley, through the release of the film ‘Bob Marley: One Love’ (2024)—directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green; produced by Robert Teitel, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, and The Marley Family; and distributed by Paramount Pictures. Once again, placing the spotlight on Jamaica – the land of Reggae Music.

Seated into the beautifully decorated Palace Amusement’s Carib 5 cinema, we, a fully Jamaican audience, were addressed. “You are the first public audience ever to see this film,” said Brian Robbins, the CEO and President of Paramount Pictures. A non-Jamaican, Caucasian-American studio executive addressed us on the making of what is to be a Jamaican-centred film full of African diaspora representation; after all, the liberation of African Diaspora Peoples, and especially Jamaicans is what Bob Marley stood for.

Several questions doubting the imminent authenticity of the film plagued my mind: “Will this film be true to Jamaican culture? Will this film represent Bob Marley’s true values? How did this film involve Jamaicans in its production?” Mr. Robins continued his speech: “Everyone at Paramount is so honoured to have worked alongside the Marley family—thank you Ziggy—to bring this story of Bob’s message of love, peace and unity to the big screen! We truly could not have delivered this film the way it was meant to be told without the people of Jamaica!

We were able to employ over 400 Jamaican cast and crew and more than 1800 background actors over 25 days of filming on the island and we loved every minute of it.” I pondered his statements and concluded: “An astute and comprehensive introduction – Mr. Robins. Rather than having doubts plague my mind, instead I’ll have to let the film speak for itself.” And indeed – the film spoke!

The first thing I noticed were the accents. This is a movie performed entirely in Patois—not an English subtitle in sight. The dialect of our people, in the land that the dialect was birthed, was not presumed in need for English translation. Even the jokes were masterfully crafted, performed entirely in Patois, and gave an “inside-joke” feel as though they were created specifically for Jamaican laughter.

The opening scenes of the movie were filmed in the heart of Bob Marley’s own Trench Town. Bob Marley and his bandmates started their day in the early hours of the morning before the sun rose. They finished off their physical conditioning with playing a game of football with the neighbourhood’s children.

Their child-like fun was sharply disrupted by the sound of gunshots scrambling through the air. The scene produced the same reaction within the audience as the characters on screen “Were they the target? Was anyone in their party shot?” No-one. Not yet!

In another scene: Bob and his gang were soberly greeted by the familiar uniform of two Jamaican police officers, or as Bob frequently refers to them in his music as, “Babylon,” to insinuate their oppressive tactics against Rastafarians. As it was sung, so was it represented. One of the police officers immediately gestured to Bob and his bandmates to pull over and get out of the vehicle; however, he was promptly halted by the second officer, who quickly let the BLUE LBL733L BMW vehicle go off on its journey. As they drove off, the second officer chided, “Yuh don’t know who dat is?”

The honesty of the scene was palpable, as discrimination and violence against Rastafarians by organised institutions has a long history in Jamaica. The scene brought us alongside Bob as he faced discrimination in his own country by his own fellow Jamaicans, yet was only insulated by his celebrity status. This was clearly emphasised given that the first police officer didn’t recognize him and, had the second officer not been there to stop him, he would likely have physically harassed the group. Insulated to the point of recognition, but powerless without it.

The scene simultaneously contextualises Rastafarians as a class of people who are frequently oppressed by organised institutions in Jamaica, while situating Bob Marley-the-celebrity as a member of an oppressed class. Throughout the rest of the movie, Bob wrestles—both consciously and unconsciously—with the potency of his fame and how it both disassociates and insulates him from average experiences, while further catapulting him into uncommon violent situations that the average civilian wouldn’t be a target of.

The paradox of Bob Marley’s fame becomes a central theme in the plot of the biopic, where the paradox rotates in almost a cyclical motion. Insulation via fame, which leads to detachment from ordinary living; simultaneously, there is also violence because of fame, which leads to a harsh and humbling reality check, and a recentering on their humble foundations—producing music. In the aforementioned scene Bob evades the Jamaican police officers, yet in another scene we witness an violent assassination attempt on Bob Marley’s life.

Bob —shot in the arm; Rita Marley—shot in the head; Don Taylor, Bob’s manager—shot six times throughout his body. Shockingly enough, there were no fatalities. This event of senseless violence, however, catapults Bob into making tough decisions for his family’s lives. Albeit being injured, he completes the Smile Jamaica concert in a powerful and riveting scene—focusing on music as a vehicle for healing. Directly following the concert, however, he flees Jamaica to live in England. The violence they experienced propels Bob and his bandmates to pour themselves into creating music, and we see the birth of their album ‘Exodus’ (1977).

The release of the album launches Bob Marley and the Wailers into even greater heights of fame. The group embarks on their tour around Europe, and the paradox cycle begins again. The European tour is a huge financial and critical success, which in turn gives birth to new conflicts. Bob, after having been alerted by Rita and his bandmates several times at the shady dealings of his manager Don, witnesses Don compromising what was supposed to be an imminent tour set throughout the African Continent.

In a fit of rage, Bob violently lashes out at Don—literally kicking and punching him to the ground. When Bob exits the building to get some fresh air, another conflict awaits him, this time – through Rita. Bob exclaims: “We’re in Paris, Rita!” to which Rita responds that she doesn’t care about Paris or the money or meeting celebrities, or fame—what happened to denouncing stardom in place of living a humble life?

Tensions rise between them as Rita confronts Bob on his, “outside children” and Bob in turn accuses Rita of marital unfaithfulness as well. She then physically attacks Bob, and someone has to separate them to calm them down. The film ends on the Marley family and all the Marley children gathering around a bonfire to enjoy music together—highlighting that music will always be the glue that keeps them together and the foundation that humbles them.

What is significant about these final scenes and the representation of the paradox is that they don’t try to paint Bob as a perfect human being. The film is full of confessions; full of confirmations of Jamaican “rumors,” which turned out to be truths; full of perspective on Rastafarianism and Jamaican-ness and Blackness; full of love for the African continent; and full of the nuances of Bob Marley.


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