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Originally published Thursday, April 19, 2012 at 3:02 PM

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Movie review

Bob Marley documentary long but amazing

"Marley," a new documentary by Kevin Macdonald, is a bit long but amazing in its scope, detail and beauty. The movie is playing at Seattle's Varsity.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 3 stars

'Marley' a documentary directed by Kevin Macdonald. 145 minutes. Rated PG-13 for drug content, thematic elements and some violent images. Varsity.

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i personally love this movie despite the length. while watching it on Facebook i saw... MORE

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Even those who know reggae star Bob Marley inside and out might be amazed by the scope, detail and beauty of "Marley," a documentary directed by Kevin Macdonald ("One Day in September," "The Last King of Scotland").

Beginning with the singer's hardscrabble childhood in the Trench Town district of Kingston, Jamaica, and ending with his early death from cancer in 1981 at age 36, the documentary provides a vivid and intimate portrait of the reggae colossus through the recollections of friends, family members and fellow musicians.

Among those relating stories about Marley are wife Rita Marley; girlfriend Cindy Breakspeare (Miss World 1976 and mother of Damian Marley); producer Chris Blackwell of Island Records; and Wailers percussionist Bunny Wailer, who provides some of the film's most colorful and insightful stories about Marley and his longtime band.

The prejudice Marley endured as a boy for being "half-caste" — he was the son of a black woman and an itinerant white man, Capt. Norval Marley — is told compellingly by friends and family members, including a number of half-siblings who shared the same father.

The experience helped shape Marley's view of humanity, as expressed in such songs as "One Love" and "Cornerstone," along with his conversion to Rastafarianism at a young age. Indeed, Marley was as much a spiritual leader for fellow Jamaicans as he was an innovative musician who elevated reggae to the world stage. Nothing better illustrates his desire to unify fellow Jamaicans than his insistence on performing a hometown concert after he was nearly assassinated by a gunman from one of two rival gangs.

The film opens with aerial footage of the lush, hilly terrain of Saint Ann Parish, where Marley was born, and ends with stirring footage of some of his final concerts. But at a running length of nearly 2 ½ hours, the film is best suited for Marley's most devoted fans.

Gene Stout: gene@genestout.com

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