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Time Will Tell (1992)

7.9
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The life story of Nesta Robert Marley, Rastafarian prophet who with Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer brought the powerful message of reggae music to the world outside their native Jamaica. ... See full summary »

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Title: Time Will Tell (1992)

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The life story of Nesta Robert Marley, Rastafarian prophet who with Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer brought the powerful message of reggae music to the world outside their native Jamaica. Narration consists of selections from Marley's taped interviews. Written by Molly Malloy <mailcall@bluemarble.net>

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Celebrating the Life and Music of a Legend


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28 May 1992 (USA)  »

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Bob Marley: Time Will Tell  »

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Bob Marley: [Last Line] I am not the angel of death lady, I am the child of life.
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Preaching to the choir...
2 March 2004 | by (Roselle Park, NJ USA) – See all my reviews

(NOTE--It's been almost exactly 10 years since I wrote this review. In the intervening decade I've become rather more educated and sympathetic about not only the sociopolitical and religious context of reggae, but about the music itself and the man who made it--not to mention that I've been fortunate enough to make some very good Jamaican friends who've put a very personal, human face on their culture. It was a younger, cockier, and somewhat naive self that wrote this review; even if I think the *movie's* flaws are still flaws, I am older and wiser now so my snottier criticism should be interpreted as such. Read on with salt-shaker at the ready.)

I'm a musician. I appreciate Bob Marley and his music. In fact, some of it I really like a lot. So I went into "Time Will Tell" enthusiastically, hoping to get some further insight into this talented fellow and his music. But here's the thing: I'm not a Marley worshipper. I admit that the whole reggae/Rasta/Jamaica thing is rather out of my sphere, and I'm approaching it from the POV of an interested outsider, mostly through the music. I think that's a good thing, to come into it with a more or less objective mind. So what did I find here? Basically a feel-good Marleyfest, an awesomely reverent but shallow publicity piece aimed right at the (one suspects white, middle-class American) already-converted.

The biggest problem is that "Time Will Tell" assumes that you already know the backstory and main characters, that you will knowingly chant along with the career highlights depicted as they are paraded along. Think of a Beatles documentary: New York airport, screaming teens, Ed Sullivan show. (check) A Hard Days Night. (check) "Bigger than Jesus." (check) Our World/"All You Need Is Love" broadcast. (check) You get the idea. But hardly any explanation is given for anything. There are what appear to be news footage of important looking people, and of some kind of urban warfare, and you realize that you have no idea what this is about , who these slick politicians and Jamaican kids with machine guns are, and who or what they're shooting about. All you get is a vague sense that it has something to do with Marley's music. Or maybe it's just there to add some ersatz drama. The opening montage of early-60s shantytown Kingston set to "One Cup of Coffee" is nice, though.

Bob-mon himself doesn't come off too well IMO. Yes, he's there talking to the camera himself. But my impression is of a guy who is alternately stoned out of his gourd, rambling on and on semi-coherently about various issues, and a self-aggrandizing religious fanatic. Look, I can dig many of his views about lousy human-rights conditions and politics--he obviously knows about the hardships of his people and his activism on their behalf is admirable--but his rap in defense of pot-smoking ("herb" as he calls it) sounds utterly silly in its self-righteous profundity. As for the messaianism, well, much of his concert footage looks suspiciously like some kind of mutant revivalist gathering, what with his "Jah! Rastafaaaaarriii!!!" histrionics and the accompanying wild cheering, the fans in videoland are obviously supposed to cheer along, between bong hits. Me, I end up feeling like I took a wrong turn into a fundamentalist church. I don't fault Marley for his religious convictions, but not being a Rastafarian myself (I'm a Christian atheist, if that makes sense), it doesn't connect with me in the least, and his grandstanding ends up being really effin' annoying after a while, when what I came for was some really incredible music.

Thank Jah, er, God, that the music IS uniformly excellent. EXCELLENT. No further comment required.

If only they woulda stuck with the music and left the faithfully uncritical biography crap for someone more capable, more objective, I would have given "Time Will Tell" a 10. "Behind The Music" (I think) did a wonderful Marley retrospective. See that instead.


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