Classic concert footage rekindles Marley spirit

Bob Marley fans will get a sense of nostalgia when they see Bob Marley Live in Concert, but film critics will be disappointed.

There is nothing new about the film, which is featured in the TimeFrame series of the D.C. International Film Festival, until April 29. The documentary is a collection of concert footage shot from 1979 to 1981.

The film itself is not an award-winner. It is not an insightful documentary, nor is it particularly imaginative in its presentation. With rough editing and low-quality production techniques, the film lets Marley speak for himself as he performs his inspirational reggae.

The majority of the footage comes from a 1980 concert in Dortmund, Germany, shortly before the star’s death. The filmmaker, German journalist Stefan Paul, may have aspired to create a more in-depth documentary, which is indicated by shots of shantytowns in Kingston, Jamaica, interspersed with concert footage. But for the most part, the film consists of raw concert performances.

Although the film’s low quality may detract from a movie about another musician, in the case of Marley, it allows viewers to witness uncut concert footage from one of the most influential musicians of the latter half of the 20th century.

Marley was more than a musician. He transcended his humble Jamaican upbringing to become an international star, while bringing worldwide exposure to reggae music.

Some fans view Marley as more than a simple musician because he spread the Rastafarian religion’s idea of universal love and respect. Many have called Marley a prophet in his own right. He is still a hero, both in his country and across the globe.

Marley’s performances prove how seriously he treated his songs, down to every note and syllable. Watching him sing songs such as “Natural Mystic” and “Comin’ In From the Cold,” makes it easy to see why many consider Marley’s concentration similar to a trace.

The film presents a good depiction of Marley’s on-stage presence. Clutching the microphone, pouring every bit of energy he has into a song and engaging in his signature free-floating dance moves, Marley puts on lively performances.

In addition to the concert in Germany, Paul includes footage of the 1979 Reggae Sunsplash concert in Jamaica. The film concludes with footage from Marley’s funeral in 1981. This was Paul’s opportunity to transform his film into a documentary. He could have shifted the film’s focus over the religious controversy surrounding Marley’s funeral, but the filmmaker chose to emphasize Marley’s live performances.

Seeing a figure like Marley come to life on the big screen is certainly an inspirational moment for fans. Some fans have even compared the film to a religious experience.

By transforming an audio image into a visual representation, Paul does an outstanding job. Marley fans should not miss this opportunity.

Although fans may have missed the chance to see Marley live in concert, rest assured – this is the next best thing.

Bob Marley Live in Concert shows Saturday at 10:45 p.m. at the National Geographic Society (17th and M streets, NW). Tickets must be purchased in advance. Call (703) 218-6500 for or visit www.tickets.com

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