Middle Row, Centre: Two for the Summer

Yukon Film Society’s Available Light Cinema series is scheduled for at least one summer showing at the Yukon Arts Centre, although it’s been switched from Sunday to Thursday performances.

This month’s offering is a dynamic double bill, featuring a documentary on one of the most influential musicians of our time, as well as New Zealand’s top-grossing film of 2010.

Marley, from Scottish-born director Kevin MacDonald, has to be the definitive statement on the life and times of Jamaica’s pre-eminent reggae superstar.

When Bob Marley died in February 1981 of melanoma, he left behind a legacy that transcended his career as the veritable founder of reggae music as we know it.

Marley’s worldwide influence was such that, had he wanted, he could have run for any political office, just about anywhere.

Instead, he chose to convey through his music an eternal message of peace and brotherhood that made people sit up and take notice, and bequeathed on him legions of adoring fans.

Director of last year’s The Eagle, Kevin MacDonald is perhaps best known for his 2006 biography of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, The Last King of Scotland.

For Marley, MacDonald was granted full co-operation from Bob Marley’s family, which enabled him to make extensive use of filmings of concert performances, personal interviews and never-before-seen archival footage.

Asked by an interviewer if he is a rich man, Marley says, “I don’t have that kind of richness; my richness is life.”

Indeed, his 36 years were truly full, with 11 children, mothered by seven different women, and fame that spread worldwide.

Marley is two and a half hours of delight, wonder and admiration for a man who died too soon, and whose influence is still profound, more than twenty years after his departure.

Boy, from New Zealand director Taika Waititi, is a warm and funny saga of a young Maori boy growing up on the east coast of the island’s Bay of Plenty.

Set in 1984, when Michael Jackson’s Thriller enthralled a generation in imitation of his dance moves, the singer had no bigger fan than the film’s main protagonist, played with sensitivity and skill by 11-year-old first-time actor James Rolleston.

Known to his family and friends simply as Boy, he shares responsibility, along with his grandmother, for the health and welfare of himself, his brother Rocky, and a motley brood of deserted cousins growing up with them.

His mother died giving birth to his brother, who believes he is possessed with superpowers, while the boys’ father Alamein, played by director Waititi, has been serving time for the past seven years for armed robbery.

He is but a dim memory to Boy, who is unaware of his father’s real whereabouts, and fantasizes him as a deep sea diver, a military hero and a host of other heroic roles.

When Alamein returns from prison one day while the boys’ grandmother has gone to Wellington for a week to attend a funeral, his mission is not so much to reunite with his family, but to find a cache of money, the fruits of his robbery, that he had buried just before his imprisonment.

The only trouble is, he can’t remember exactly where it was buried.

Soon, as Boy and his extended band of siblings are pressed into service digging up their lawn, the youngster has a chance, as the days stretch on, to become acquainted with the reality of his heroic image of his father.

The results of his coming-of-age process make for a vivid and heartwarming portrayal that its audience is sure to find universally endearing.

Boy plays at 6 p.m. and Marley plays at 8 p.m., Thursday, July 26 at the Yukon Arts Centre.

Brian Eaton is a cinema buff who reviews current films and writes on other film-related topics on a regular basis.

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