In 1979, legendary Jamaican musician and activist Bob Marley made a visit to New Zealand, and now, a television documentary series called “When Bob Came” follows Marley’s journey in the country and explores his appeal to New Zealanders.
The actor James Rolleston, who starred in the film, “Boy,” by Taika Waititi and was not even born when Marley made the trip to New Zealand, is the presenter of “When Bob Came.” The series includes interviews with Tigilau Ness, a musician and activist himself, who remembers being at Western Springs where Marley performed with his band, The Wailers, as well as archival footage from the visit. There are also other interviews with people who discuss what Bob Marley means to them, including Oscar Kightley, Anika Moa, Troy Kingi, and others.
According to Angela Cudd, a producer and director of the “When Bob Came” series, Marley definitely had an impact on New Zealanders that began with his music and went on to his perspective on life and his “unapologetic freedom of thought.” She added that freedom was what the people of New Zealand needed at a particularly contentious time in their country’s history. It was this that spurred Marley’s transformation from musician to a legendary figure referred to as “Uncle Bob,” abd someone with whom people identified and believed represented them.
While Bob Marley died in 1981, his music has had a lasting impact on the music scene in New Zealand. Actor Rolleston has memories of listening to Marley’s music in his hometown, Ōpōtiki. He said he loves and respects reggae music and Marley, noting that while he was growing up, Marley was “quite a big person” and many people listened to him.
In 2016, when he was 19 years old, Rolleston had an automobile accident that left him in a coma for a month with a brain injury and a broken leg. He had to relearn how to walk and talk afterward. He said it was difficult recovering from the fatigue he felt along with additional cognitive issues, but he is doing well now. As an actor, he is best known for his roles in “Boy,” “The Dark Horse,” “The Breaker Upperers,” and “Whina,” as well as the TV programs “Golden Boy” and “Shortland Street.” In 2022, he made an appearance in the film, “One Winter,” with Julian Dennison, a film set during the 1981 Springbok tour.
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