Bob Marley Biopic Director Reinaldo Marcus Green Says All of Jamaica Helped Make the Movie

The director of “Bob Marley: One Love,” Reinaldo Marcus Green, had experience telling the stories of real people. He received the script for the Bob Marley film while he was still editing “King Richard,” the film about the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams for which he received an Oscar nomination. Green was amazed that no one had done a biographical film about reggae legend Marley before, but he knew he had to get the support of the Marley family and be able to include Marley’s music to do the story justice. Luckily for Green and the many Marley fans, the family was all in with the project. Bob Marley’s widow Rita, his son Ziggy, and his daughter Cedella are co-producers on the film, and they gave permission to use his music as well.

Finding the focus

In an interview with Movie Maker magazine, Green talked about how he looked for common denominators in Bob Marley’s story after discovering that over 500 books have already been written about him, and everyone had a different story. Green said he never wanted to do a film that followed the artist from his birth to his death but decided to focus on the period from 1976 to 1978, the years when Marley created “Exodus,” often called one of the best albums of the 20th century. These years also encompassed the assassination attempt on Marley in Jamaica, his time in the United Kingdom, and then his ultimate return to the home island. He also wanted to tell a more authentic story that depicted Marley’s strong work ethic, his study of the Jamaican Black liberator and anti-colonialist Marcus Garvey, and his deep spiritual beliefs.

Depicting Marley’s spiritualism

Bob Marley followed Rastafarianism, and he always displayed the conquering lion symbol that represented the Emperor of Ethiopia Hailie Selassie I in the background of his concerts. He also wore the dreadlocks that represented the lion’s mane all his life. As Green emphasized, Bob Marley was a spiritual individual with a deep faith and strong practitioner of Rastafarian beliefs. “He was guided by the Bible. He read it religiously. Scripture is what’s in his music,” Green added. Continuing the legacy of his father, Ziggy Marley led everyone in a prayer circle on the first day of filming, and Green said it felt like Marley was on the set guiding their efforts.

Director Green named for Marcus Garvey

Green told the Movie Maker interviewer that he was named for Marcus Garvey, a leader who advocated the liberation of Black people, fighting for rights and justice, and creating unity. Green also has a strong work ethic similar to Bob Marley’s. He worked on Wall Street for several years before moving into the insurance business, and ultimately, motivated by his brother, Rashaad Ernesto Green, who is also a director, he got into film. He started as a “glorified P.A.,” he said, then entered the Tisch School of the Arts graduate film program at New York University, where he found he loved writing and directing. His short films led him to the Sundance Lab in 2017, which was a life-changing experience for him. Green has a strong commitment to truth in his documentary-style approach to film, an attitude fostered by his father, who was an attorney, and his own studies as a history major in college.


Jamaicans helped make the film a success

Green stated that his Marley film provided work for more than 4,000 Jamaicans, and that some 95 percent of the cast of the film are Jamaicans. While the speakers in the film have strong accents and the audience may sometimes be challenged to understand the Jamaican Patois language, Green believes viewers will feel as though they are on the streets of Trenchtown, overhearing real conversations on its busy streets. To this end, Green surrounded Kingsley Ben-Air, who plays Bob Marley in the film, with real musicians and real Jamaicans so he would be “folded into a situation that was real. Green noted the support his filming had received in Jamaica, saying, “It felt like the whole country stood up to help us make this movie. It was quite special in that way.”

Inspiration for young people

Green hopes that Bob Marley’s story as he has told it will continue the reggae icon’s legacy and serve as an inspiration to the young people of today. Green acknowledges that Marley is often their favorite musician, but he also wants them to know his was a man – “a real life superhero without the cape” – and that those in challenging circumstances can watch the movie and think, “I can do it too!” Green wants to share Bob Marley’s message of hope and that anything is possible.