‘Bob Marley: One Love’ director says language was key in film

Reinaldo Marcus Green was strategic in narrowing film’s focus to three years

Bob Marley: One Love director Reinaldo Marcus Green (who also directed the Oscar-winning film King Richard and the miniseries We Own This Town) was surprised there wasn’t already a film about the reggae legend when he first received a script for the film, which has gone on to be a major box office hit.

Once he learned the family was involved, he decided it was a serious effort and went all in, he tells NEXT in a Toronto hotel room the day of the film’s local premiere.

“Ziggy [Marley]’s a musician, so it was great for us to be able to use his strengths,” says Green. “Having access to the family, having access to Bob by virtue of his children was a huge asset for us.”

The Marley family were also producers of the film. “Are there times that you are going to have intense conversations about things? Of course,” Green says. “It’s just the nature of any family making a movie. If I was making a movie about my dad, I’d be like ‘Don’t put him in that shirt.’ You’re going to have those conversations, but it’s always about the movie. My job is to focus on the movie and take it out of the personal.”

A key decision was to film the dialogue in Marley’s patois.

“Language was a huge part of what this film is, and I don’t speak patois,” explains Green. “And then Bob’s specific language is a language in and of itself.”

He admits there was a temptation to explore subtitles — “We wanted the film to be as universal as possible” — and he describes navigating the film’s language as “a delicate line.”

“When you watch an interview with Bob, you understand him; you may not understand every word, but you understand him. I thought if the film felt like that, then we get it. There were times that we went too far and I had to pull back. There were other times we went too far and it was okay to go too far. That’s the flavour of the film, that’s the vibe.”

With the singer’s entire life to draw upon the director narrowed the film’s focus to the critical years 1976 to 1978, when Marley survived an assassination attempt, self-exiled to London where he recorded his breakthrough album Exodus, which was followed by a triumphant return to Jamaica that was marred by a cancer diagnosis.

“I tried not to chew off too much of his life, just the section to sit in and focus on, to bring you a little closer to the man,” says Green. “Exodus is the album that took Bob from being a national hero to a global superstar, so there was an immediate arch there. They tried to kill him and his wife — that would change anybody — so he underwent this traumatic experience and put it into his music. Exodus is the album most of us know; it put him on the map and the reach was incredible. Bob’s reach was incredible during that time, so the film is a celebration of his life. He gets his cancer diagnosis, but we sort of get out before the end. It felt like the right period time to capture.”

And the world would seem to agree as Bob Marley: One Love has remained strong in theatres with only Dune: Part Two’s sandworms able to dislodge it from the top spot at the box office.

Bob Marley: One Love
Where: In theatres
What: Movie, 104 mins.
When: Now
Genre: Historical drama
Rating: NNNNN (out of 5)
Why you should watch: An uplifting and authentic, big-budget look at a tumultuous time in Bob Marley’s life, 1976 – 1978, when he survived an assassination attempt and was about to have his biggest commercial success. Marley gets the biopic he deserves with this film, created with the support of his family, that still manages to paint a full picture. It’s worth seeing for the concert performance and recording session scenes alone. Read the full review.