Magazine article Screen International

Kevin Macdonald

Magazine article Screen International

Kevin Macdonald

Article excerpt

Oscar winning director Kevin Macdonald talks about the challenges of making his latest documentary about reggae legend Marley.

A decade ago, Kevin Macdonald - whose credits include One Day In September, Touching The Void and The Last King Of Scotland - had a very challenging time when he made a documentary about rock star Mick Jagger. He didn't have full control over Being Mick: You Would If You Could (2001). So when he was given the opportunity to make a film about reggae legend Bob Marley, he was careful to guarantee his own editorial independence.

"Obviously, I was very aware of the dangers of dealing with major celebrities. I had contractual assurances that I would be able to make something in the way that I wanted it to be made, not to be forced to cut things. The film is what I wanted it to be."

Macdonald pays tribute to financier/producer Steve Bing, who gave him his creative freedom and didn't even demur when the director delivered a final film that was 144 minutes long. (Macdonald was originally contracted to make a movie under two hours.) "They (the financiers) were respectful enough in a way not only to let me put in what I wanted but also to make it (the documentary) long. It felt to me that he (Bob Marley) was a very important cultural figure and that he merited the length."

Jonathan Demme and Martin Scorsese had both been linked with the project before Macdonald finally came on board.

"It was a long and messy history," the Scottish director recalls. Scorsese originally planned to direct the Marley film after he finished Rolling Stones doc Shine A Light but he had too many other commitments and soon stepped aside. Demme took over. He reportedly did extensive research and even shot some footage. However, he never completed the film.

"I was third time lucky," Macdonald jokes. He himself had already been trying to make a Marley-themed film several years before. This was to be a travelogue, following some Rastafarians from Jamaica to Ethiopia for Marley's 60th birthday commemoration concert in 2005. He had spoken to Island Records founder (and Marley mentor) Chris Blackwell, an important contact for the Marley film he finally did make.

"You can see from the movie what are the challenges. It is difficult to get people to talk in Jamaica. There is a lot of politics and in-fighting between the different people - the band members, the family, the music right holders whatever...it's a huge production job."

Macdonald credits producer Charles Steel of Cowboy Films with helping him through the minefields. …

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