May 2008

Africa Unite
Palm Pictures/Tuff Gong PALMDV 3161
Format: DVD
Released: 2008

by Joseph Taylor

Musical Performance ***
Recording Quality ***1/2
Image Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ***1/2

A few weeks ago I was reading an article about Tibet that included a photo and a brief paragraph about a Tibetan rap singer. Hanging above the stage behind the singer was a banner with several photos of Bob Marley. Marley is an inspiring figure to musicians across the globe, especially those who are politically engaged. Yet his influence might be felt more strongly in Africa than anywhere else. Africa Unite is a celebration of Marley, but it is also a stirring document about Africans throughout the continent who have taken Marley’s message of confidence and self-determination to heart.

Marley’s family -- his wife, children, and his mother -- visited Ethiopia in 2005 to participate in Africa Unite, which celebrated what would have been Marley’s 60th birthday. The Marley family helped organize the event, which brought together young people and activists from across the continent to discuss and promote pan-Africanism, Marley’s dream. This documentary contains concert footage of the Marley sons and a number of African pop stars, but it also covers the history Ethiopia in the 20th century, its emperor Haile Selassie, and the development of Rastafarianism, the religion that helped inform Marley’s unique vision.

Africa Unite is not a concert documentary. It splits its time between live performances, which it sometimes cuts short, and documentary footage. But anyone who enjoys Bob Marley’s music and has only a vague idea of the ideas behind it will find the film fascinating and informative. Bonus features include 50 minutes of concert footage and interviews with Marley’s sons. The sound, in both Dolby two channel and Dolby 5.1 surround, is very good, and Stephanie Black’s direction is solid and well thought out.