As the first Third World superstar, Robert Nesta Marley left an indelible mark on the world with his prophetic, revolutionary lyricism, charitable acts, and incomparable musicianship. He personifies the term legend and his contributions are too numerous to mention in this space. Marley is a trailblazing documentary, which provides an in-depth look into the life of one of the world’s greatest visionaries. With assistance from Bob Marley’s two eldest children, Ziggy and Cedella Marley, Oscar-winning film director Kevin Macdonald allows the world to enter the humble beginnings of a biracial child from Nine Mile Road in Saint Ann Parish, Jamaica and experience his ultimate transition to become a universal phenomenon until his untimely passing at the age of 36. The film was written by Magnolia Pictures, and it can currently be seen in select theaters nationwide and via various on-demand services.
EBONY recently sat down with Karen and Rohan Marley to discuss the making of the documentary and their father’s timeless legacy.
EBONY: What are your earliest memories of your father?
Karen Marley: When he passed away, I was only 8 years old. I didn’t grow up with him, but I do remember visiting him many times on 56 Hope Road in Jamaica. We would hang out, eat, talk, play, and run around. We would do the normal things that little kids would do when playing with their dad.
Rohan Marley: My father was a man who helped many people throughout his life. He was a disciplinarian. I remember he wanted his children to do things the right way. He always stood up for himself and wanted his children to be the same way.
EBONY: What were your initial thoughts when discussions began to make the documentary?
Karen Marley: It was one of those things that have been in process for a while. My family was really involved especially my brother Ziggy. When we all decided that we wanted the film to be done, we wanted the film to be done in a certain way. We wanted it to be portrayed in the right light because there are a million other little interviews and documentaries out there, but nothing that we were 100% behind. Most of those interviews and documentaries are from people who really didn’t know him. We wanted to do a documentary with people that knew him the best. We wanted to give people insight into the man and not just his music. We wanted it to be real.
Rohan Marley: I didn’t really have much that much say in the making of the documentary because everything was being done by my sister Cedella and my brother Ziggy. We were all interested in getting the documentary done and we wanted to find the right person to do it.
EBONY: How difficult was it locating all of these important figures that shaped your father’s life who were in the documentary?
Karen Marley: Some were more difficult than others, that’s for sure. The director Kevin MacDonald did a really great job of researching and finding all of these people. I was pretty impressed and I’m sure it wasn’t an easy feat. He was back and forth with Ziggy going through everything. Ziggy worked very closely with him. He allowed him the freedom to do his thing as a director and an artist. During the process, Kevin would always touch base with Ziggy. Ziggy would give him ideas on who he could go talk to and sometimes Ziggy would have to put in a word so they didn’t think, ‘Who is this guy doing a documentary?’
It was really one of things where we’ve discussed doing it over the years. Different people approach you asking if you want to do this or that and I think now was just the right time. It was something as a family that we wanted to get behind because we wanted to do the documentary the right way. There were a couple of other directors who were on the project who just didn’t capture essence of him. Kevin was the right person and it was the right time to do the documentary.
EBONY: When you were watching the documentary, did you learn any new things about your father?
Karen Marley: I did because I was only 8 when he passed. One of the things I did learn from the documentary was the time he spent in Germany. My mom sheltered us and we didn’t really know everything during the time of his illness and the last days of his life. I didn’t know of the minor struggles he faced as a biracial kid. I learned about some of the processes he went through while writing some of his great songs. One of the more significant things that stood out for me was the Zimbabwe concert where everyone left off of the stage and he was still the only one on the stage. I think I learned just as much as the people who were in the theatre with me.
Rohan Marley: I definitely learned some new things about him because I didn’t know everything about him at such a young age. Back then, you couldn’t really pick up what certain things meant during that time.
EBONY: How many of your siblings have seen the documentary and what were their feelings after viewing it?
Karen Marley: I think most of us have seen the documentary and it took us on an emotional rollercoaster, which is what we wanted. We didn’t want to just put in the good stuff. There was anger, sadness, and laughter. I saw it initially before they cut it down to two hours and I had to see it again at South by Southwest because my son hadn’t seen it yet. It was very heartfelt and emotional.
EBONY: Do you feel the film truly captured the essence of your father’s legacy?
Karen Marley: I think it did because you saw him as a man and not just a superstar musician. After watching this film, it made me love him even more and the people I spoke to who have seen the film felt the same way. To see his drive and determination was a great thing. Once he knew his mission, he was going for it and to be able to see that meant everything.
Rohan Marley: I loved all of it. It was great to see his transition from Nine Mile all the way through. There was some of everything. People can relate to my father’s life from the struggles he faced on day one all the way through. It was great to see those sides of him. It captured the essence of him. It spoke in detail about the many parts of his life, but there is only so much you can tell within the time of the film. Of course, there’s more, but Kevin did a good job of really touching on the important parts of him so everyone could get a better understanding of the man. There are hours upon hours of footage recorded that people haven’t seen. There was a certain time frame we had to operate under so that’s why there is so much left over material.
EBONY: Why should everyone go see this film in theaters or on Facebook?
Karen Marley: Everyone should see it because it’s an awesome film. If you loved him before, you’ll love him even more after seeing it. It’s very educational and you get to learn more about the man. It’s one of those things that everyone should see especially if you’re a Bob Marley fan. Even if you’re not a Bob Marley fan, you can’t watch the film and say you haven’t been touched. The film sends a message about determination, drive and if you have a mission go for it with everything you have.
Rohan Marley: So people can learn something about oneself. It’s all about working toward the unification of mankind. It’s important in this life to help others to become better people and to unite all people of different colors and backgrounds. We all come from one source.
EBONY: How should the world remember your father’s legacy?
Karen Marley: The world should remember the message in his music and what he stood for. He was all about one love, unity, taking care of your children, and the earth. We’re a close knit family and we try to carry on his legacy by giving back through charities and music.
Rohan Marley: By the work he has done.