The Blog

Bob Marley's 'Ride or Die' Chick Movie

Making of a Legend is an award-winning film made by Esther Anderson, 67, a Jamaican actress and Bob Marley's former lover.

Bob Marley (left) with Esther Anderson (right) photo in Jamaica EstherAnderson©

"Behind every great band, there's a great woman" chirps Nibal Soweto, the suited Jamaican master of ceremonies at Chelsea Theatre'sBlack History Month screening of Bob Marley: The Making of a Legend.

Making of a Legend is an award-winning film made by Esther Anderson, 67, a Jamaican actress and Bob Marley's former lover using footage previously held by Marley's manager Chris Blackwell, mixed with footage discovered in a garage in Canada in 2000.

Indeed, Marley had many female companions, most fans are able to name Rita, his wife and Cindy Breakspeare, Jamaica's Miss World 1975 and mother of the famous Damian Marley, but for those in the know, Esther Anderson was never a 'groupie'. Anderson was the woman who helped Marley crack the international market. She helped start Island Records, Marley's long-time record label, she was his creative consultant, PR woman and biographical filmmaker and photographer all in her own right. The documentary film charts the early years of his career from 1972-73, when he didn't have his trademark dreadlocks.

Esther Anderson was also a successful model, one of the first black women to appear in American Vogue: image with permission from Esther Anderson.

Making of a Legend clearly positions itself in the context of Jamaica's colonial past, a series of paintings from the slavery era open the film. Anderson recounts her first encounter with the young Marley at an exclusive record label party in Autumn 1972 New York, she says, "He greeted me in a strange way, he said 'Hey'." Her shock at his greeting perhaps revealing a different upbringing, she had no idea who he was, but, "he knew all about me," she says, a friend told her later on that evening that "he followed my life story in the Jamaica Gleaner."

"He didn't know much about the rock world, so he asked for help with the rock world," eventually she offers him help with photography and her Hollywood connections. Anderson was Jamaica's premier actress at the time, shooting Warm December with Sidney Poitier in 1972, she was the first black model in American Vogue and had just come out of a relationship with the eminent Marlon Brando.

She somehow winds up with Marley in Haiti, still strangers, saying,"The record company put us up in a hotel on our own, I thought that was odd." Black and white footage from Haiti and old photographs from Marley on the trip intersperse her storytelling from her couch, where she appears like a Caribbean Elizabeth Taylor, narrating the film.

Once in the hotel they bond and start a relationship. "He told me everything about his life story, he said he had a dream that night, people dragged him down to a bottomless pit," she explains. The next morning, the Caucasian people they were travelling with, only remember they were missing when they had got onto the plane, ready to depart.

The trip was segregated, Marley and Anderson had been placed in a separate hotel to their white travel companions and this incident had enraged them further. "They treated us like the children of slaves," cries Anderson, this rejection was the inspiration for "Get Up, Stand Up". The lyrics, "It's not all that glitters is gold; 'Alf the story has never been told" are metaphorical for the discrimination they faced on their trip, despite being celebrities in the Caribbean.

Bob Marley on Hellshire Beach, Jamaica, he looked like this in the film: EstherAnderson©

The charm of Making of a Legend is the ability of Anderson to relay the hidden narratives behind the reggae man's songs, indicative of the slow trajectory of Marley's growth as an artist, testament to the proverb that legendary talent is effectively slow cooked and processed, not microwaved.

Marley's Soul Rebel album hadn't sold as well as expected, and the record company were open to ideas. "I had one of the first cameras ever invented by Sony, John Lennon had one of those cameras," so Anderson comes up with the idea to make a film about the Wailers.

The original footage of Marley which is the basis for the film's promotion is quite shaky, but extremely funny. Essentially the footage Anderson shoots allows us to see Marley unguarded. We could call them his home videos. The icon known as "Tuff Gong" plays with the camera, makes jokes, smokes joints.

Esther Anderson in her dressing room at the premier at Chelsea Theatre: GianGodoy©

His antics made the audience laugh in the screening, at one point seemingly tired of her reality television style filming, he says, "Let us just write the script and film it in the yard, nah? We can call it The One that Got Away."

You can read the full article here on my blog Creolita Culture

For more international screenings, check:

Esther Anderson on Twitter @EstherAnderson

Before You Go