Saturday, April 21, 2012


It’s quite a week for documentaries: opening this weekend at the Valley Art in Tempe is Marley, a detailed recounting of the life of reggae great Bob, entertainingly told through talking heads of his fellow musicians, lovers, cronies, children, etc.

Directed by the Scottish filmmaker Kevin Mcdonald, it’s full of material that was new to me, though I’ve always loved Marley’s music—I didn’t know, for instance, that his father was white, or that there was an attempt to assassinate him, or that near the end of his short life he traveled to Germany to try a holistic cure for the cancer that killed him. A fascinating movie, it humanizes an iconic figure, though it doesn’t, to its credit, make him entirely likable; for all the warmth in his music, his kids seemed to find him a bit distant and aloof. It’s full of beautiful music, too, although as so often with music films there's the frustration of the music being truncated, or talked over.

Also opening this weekend is Disney’s nature film Chimpanzee, directed by Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield. It’s about Oscar, a baby chimp in the Ivory Coast who gets orphaned after rival chimps attack his family. Much of the movie is astonishingly beautiful, but the brutal side of chimp life—including the fact that they hunt monkeys—is not ignored. At the movie’s core is astounding footage of Oscar being adopted by a male member of his troop—the alpha male, at that. These scenes are extraordinarily touching, though the generous sprinkling of folksy narration by Tim Allen makes the film feel overall less like a documentary and more like a simian reality show, albeit one with a more civilized cast than usual.

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