Wednesday, April 18, 2012


I'll have you know there's a massive cult surrounding the legacy of Bob Marley, of which I have yet to be inducted into as a card carrying member.  Chances are, you already were aware of that first fact; the latter tidbit, probably not.  So how does a person who only has a single Bob Marley lp in their collection (this excellent Studio One era compilation) and a limited knowledge of his story accurately judge the new documentary about the man?  Carefully, especially when it only takes about a half an hour to ascertain that this one's for the fans, not the uninitiated.

There's nothing particularly awry about Kevin Macdonald's (Touching the Void,
One Day in September) Marley.  The film houses an abundance of quality archival footage and photographic stills of the musical legend at work and play.  And Macdonald does a fine job of blending these elements with newer interviews with close friends, family and music industry insiders, organizing the material in a coherent and strongly chronological fashion.  It's just that, at nearly 2 1/2 hours in length, there's not a lot of urgency or innovation present in the way that this whale of a feature-length documentary swims.

A little more trimming or, perhaps, a structural device along the lines of what Martin Scorsese fashioned for his Bob Dylan doc, No Direction Home, framing the action around a single important event in Marley's history (like Scorsese did w/ Dylan's confrontational transition from playing acoustically to going electric), might have strengthened what feels like rather anemic pacing at times.

That's not to say that Marley is an uninteresting or unnecessary film; it works rather well as a loving portrait for the long-time fans.  But, here's the rub: if, like me, you're still trying to find your footing in Marley's rather intimidatingly large discography and legacy, there's something to be said for the comforts of brevity and/or dramatic tension, either of which could have greatly improved my experience of the film. 

Marley opens at the Hollywood Theatre and Living Room Theaters on Friday, April 20th.

Remember to find and "like" us on our Facebook page.
Subscribe to the blog's feed here.


There's little doubt that violence is a disruptive force not unlike cancer; the appearance of one instance rapidly multiplies until much of the social body is overtaken.  If you'll forgive my co-opting of the overused "violence is a cancer" metaphor, the subjects of Steve James' (Hoop Dreams, At the Death House Door) latest documentary, members of Chicago's Cease Fire organization, stand as a type of experimental treatment against the violence plaguing the streets of the windy city.

 James travels the streets of Chicago with representatives of Cease Fire, self-proclaimed "violence interrupters," as they put themselves in the center of conflicts, attempting to defuse them before they reach the boiling point.  What makes the organization unique, beyond their use of direct action, is that these anti-violence advocates are almost entirely made up of former proponents of violence; Cease Fire actively looks to recruit former gang-members and ex-cons to carry out their mission, reasoning that their unique expertise and undeniable street cred is an invaluable resource in stemming the spread of violence that threatens Chicago's neighborhoods.

The film demonstrates how the work being done by these interrupters extends to advocacy and mentoring; James' cameras follow members of the group as they spend time with individuals at high risk for violent action.  And it's within these one-on-one meetings that The Interrupters really finds its feet, allowing for the viewer to witness a far more personal espousal of Cease Fire's philosophy as its relates to each street team member's personal experiences.

Such moments, coupled with the sequences where the advocates divulge the sizable regrets of their past, drive the film forward, offering hope for change in what many might label a hopeless situation.  Their ability to interrupt their own vicious cycles of provocation and retribution speaks loudly to the possibility for others to experience a similar breakthrough.  The Interrupters doesn't assume that outcome but it does offer optimism via the examples of those who have overcome the odds.

The Interrupters plays at the NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium (in the Portland Art Museum) on Wed., April 18th at 8pm.  The producer of the film, Alex Kotlowitz, will be in attendance at the screening.

Remember to find and "like" us on our Facebook page.
Subscribe to the blog's feed here. 

submit to reddit