‘Africa Unite’ (2008)

This film is a strange confab of celebrity travel souvenir and retrospective of the Rastafarian movement on the occasion of Bob Marley’s 60th birthday.

Much of the surviving Marley clan is featured here — Ziggy, Rita, Cedelia, Damian and Julian — there’s music and interviews. And more interviews — interviews with lots of people who just happened to show up for Bob’s birthday celebration down in Ethiopia. There’s Danny Glover, Angelique Kidjo, Lauren Hill and others but the participants here seem to be fighting over Marley’s legacy as much as celebrating it.

But the title of the film is ‘Africa Unite’ and NOT ‘A Posthumous Celebration of Bob Marley’s 60th Birthday’. Though the film doesn’t come together as a cohesive narratve or a document of an important event, it does feature a few good, informative moments for people unfamiliar with Marley and/or the Rastafarian movement.

Notably, Haile Selassie’s 1963 address to the U.N. and the pan-African movement are addressed after the 2nd half-hour, the same speech that Marley put to music and recorded as the song “ War “.

But the relationship of these celebrities and the search for human rights, cultural development and education get somewhat muddled as the filmmakers wander back and forth from hotel conference-rooms to the streets of Addis Ababa apparently seeking some sort of grilled-cheese manifestation of the departed musician. There’s plenty of archival footage and information about Haile Selassie, but those who are really interested in the subculture and Marley’s impact might do better to see Jeremy Marre’s ‘ Rebel Music ‘ (2001), Awake Zion (2005), The Promised Ship (2000) or any of the many Wailers concert videos.

Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

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