Meet Bob Marley at E Street Cinema

Spoiler Alert! So if you are the big tree, we are the small axe.

I’ve written about DC’s E Street Cinema before, when I saw the awesome documentary “Beats Rhymes & Life” about A Tribe Called Quest. Aside from being able to drink wine and beer in the theater, super-Deutschland-style, they always have good movies! In fact, its pretty much the only place I’ve gone to see a movie in the last 6 months. Playing now is a chronicle of the man whose face and voice are perhaps more recognizable around the world than any other man. The film is the work of profound director Kevin Macdonald who also directed Life in a Day, a patchwork compilation of homemade footage taken from 80,000 submissions from 192 countries, all capturing a single day. Easily one of the most powerful movies I’ve seen in the last year.

Through Marley, Macdonald conveys a sense of international unity under universal love, as he highlights and nurtures the very things–from simple to profound–that make us human. One of the most important of those being music. The documentary follows the life of the legendary reggae superstar beginning with his birth in Nine Mile, Jamaica as a “half caste,” as he himself states in an interview. From the pangs of straddling a multicultural identity, to the hollow void left from never having known his father, we see a child reach out passionately for music, the one thing in which he finds solace. He finds his voice.

With his son Ziggy Marley as the executive producer, the film sets out to portray Marley not as a global icon, not even primarily as a musician, but simply a man. From his evolution from a shy, young teen to profoundly inspired religious Rasta Man, the audience gets a sense for the truly spiritual path upon which this man trekked. Above all things else, his devotion to Jah infused and empowered him with a righteous gift and the relentless energy to pursue it.

But saint? No. Particularly taboo is, of course, Marley’s hasty marriage to ultimately his lifelong colleague and band mate Rita Marley (he left the country the very next day for Delaware to live with his mother for a bit) and his ensuing infidelity which resulted in 11 children from 7 different mothers. Its perhaps difficult for some fans to really examine the contradictions surrounding his unfettered love. In a rare recording from a BBC interview, when asked if he was married, he simply said, “No.” He explains that he is not married because the only law he follows is Jah’s law. The rest, he says with a chuckle, he can make up for himself. The film allows the audience to rest in those very real contradictions that sometimes forever remain inexplicable. Imperfect, but so human.

What struck me most about the film–about Bob Marley’s life and then life in general–was that he was just one man. Pursuing endlessly, aggressively, fervently, lovingly the thing inside of him which gave him peace and allowed him to give peace to others. In his music, he channeled a greater good. Something that will forever be on the planet Earth as long as humans are alive, from here on out. Something so powerful that, sitting in theater 8 of E Street Cinema holding my Dogfish Head 60 minute IPA about 60 minutes into the approximately 144 minute movie, widened my eyes and made my heart bottom out. Even though I knew the story, seeing him bring two opposing political leaders of Jamaican street warfare gangsters onto the same stage to shake hands and be blessed was–and still IS–a blessing. Blessed in the music!

A liberal arts professor at my university once told me that there are more images of Bob Marley around the world than Jesus. Marley is a stunning film and really feels like an honest look at his life from a historical perspective. Its inspiring and chilling. Go see it now!

Or if you’re one of those instant gratification addicts, you can watch the full feature length film here for $6.99

Peace and love lil raggamuffins!



“Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest” Movie Review

Spoiler Alert! A rhythm recipe that you’ll savor. Doesn’t matter if you’re minor or major. For almost everyone who was growing up in the 1990s, there’s a special place in our hearts for the evolution of hip hop as an art form.  If hip hop were born in the ’80s, simple but straight up, honest if not humorously raw, then the 1990s were the teen and young adult years.  The years when hip hop started to spread its wings, push the boundaries and make up new rules to live by.  The years where we started to take hip hop very flippin’ seriously.

The boys of Tribe were also teens and young adults coming up in the late 80s and early 90s, redefining the way Americans looked at race, rhymes, strength, conviction and artistry. Michael Rappaport’s film is a sincerely intimate delve into the formation and the ensuing success of this legendary group, and then the realities of life that inevitably set in.  The film does not tell the predictable sex-drugs-rock-n-roll story of decadence that usually follows our stars, but explores the realities of miscommunication, the struggle for identity and control, and the imperfection of the human body.

From Q-tip and Phife Dawg’s disintegrating childhood friendship, to Phife’s struggle with his health, Rappaport spares no details.  At one point we are backstage at their Rock the Bells reunion tour in 2008 and Phife has been giving Tip the silent treatment for so long that the palpable tension erupts into a hot and bothered shouting match.  Dj Ali just remains silently caught in the middle of the unhealthy triangle.In other, very sobering moments, we face the reality that Phife desperately needs a kidney transplant and finds a donor in what is the most genuinely tear-jerking love story I’ve seen in a long time. (Seriously, if you’re like me you really will cry.)

April 26, 2011 - Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images North America

We all know that bands come and go and relationships change and sometimes fall apart. People are imperfect and don’t live forever.  But truly what lasts is talent. The film is a funky love song to Tribe and the music that helped make us who we are.The last thing to flash across the screen at the conclusion of the film is a hopeful and almost tongue-in-cheek line about how the group still owes one last album to Jive Records. Here’s to hoping…

For the cats in DC, you can (and should) catch this flick at the E Street Cinema. That’s all for now vivrant things!