Scots director Kevin Macdonald says Bob Marley was “beyond” famous, as he prepares a documentary marking the 30th anniversary of the music icon’s death.
The Oscar-winning film-maker behind The Last King of Scotland says he is making the film, Marley, because of the star’s “continued resonance around the world”.
“He’s gone beyond being a famous musician, he’s now a philosopher and prophet,” he adds.
The feature-length documentary is due out later this year.
Macdonald has been given unprecedented access to the Marley family’s private archives – the first time they have granted a film-maker full authorisation.
Filming on the project, which was announced in February, has taken place in Ghana, Japan, the UK and the US, as well as Marley’s native Jamaica.
The singer, songwriter and activist died of cancer in 1981 on 11 May at the age of 36.
“I think there’s always been interest in Bob Marley. It’s peaking at the moment because it’s the 30th anniversary of his death this year,” says Macdonald.
“The reason I’m making this film is the fascination and Marley’s continued resonance around the world.”
Macdonald, who won an Oscar for the 1999 documentary One Day in September, said the artist’s ubiquitousness is one of the most interesting things about his musical legacy.
“I think that’s what is so intriguing is that he’s almost become lift music in the UK and America, you hear him so much. It’s hard to hear it fresh.
“But recently in places like India or Tunisia, Marley is kind of the soundtrack to the revolution. He speaks to people politically in a way that is very important.
“In the slums of Nairobi, there are murals of Marley and people quote the lyrics to you.”
The films executive producers include Island Record founder Chris Blackwell and Marley’s son Ziggy.
The musician’s face continues to appear on bootleg products across the world, and in February last year, the Marley family signed a deal with a private equity form to secure merchandising rights to the brand.
Since then, alongside hoodies and t-shirts, fans can purchase children’s books and even Marley coffee on the singer’s official website.
“It’s easy to get on your high horse about that,” says Macdonald. “But I think actually what is more interesting is that it has taken them 30 years.
“It’s certainly not the case with The Rolling Stones and The Beatles and Michael Jackson.
“Elvis Presley’s estate is making 30 million a year and they say that Marley shouldn’t be, but he is from a much poorer part of the world and a lot more people need the money.”
“I think that what is important is what he says to people around the world. He manages to be a serious political figure to some, but he can also be an icon of rebellion.”
This is not the first attempt to make a movie about his life. A Martin Scorsese attempt failed. So did one from Jonathan Demme.
Macdonald said, “what made Bob tick is probably unanswerable, but viewers will certainly feel that they know him a little better after seeing our documentary.”
The One Love Peace Festival is to celebrate the life of Bob Marley later this year, to mark the 30th anniversary of the singer’s death.
It is holding a one-day festival at Wembley Arena on July 31, with artists performing themed sets, as well as an appearance from Marley’s son Ky Mani Marley, who will perform some of his father’s greatest hits.
Other acts appearing include Busta Rhymes, Shaggy, Sean Paul and Gyptian.
Organiser Dexter Ricketts said he was honoured to be holding such a festival. “For us the event is all about raising multi-cultural awareness and tolerance through the powerful medium of music,” he explained.
Ky-Mani Marley said, “It is with great pride that I will pay homage to my father, Bob Marley, with some of his best loved songs. The festival’s message of peace is a noble cause that I hold very dear to my heart and one that my father would have applauded.”