Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: Marley vs. Sing Your Song, two documentaries about charismatic singers-turned-icons-turned-cultural and political movers and shakers.
PremiseMarley is a documentary about Bob Marley. A combination of interviews and rare footage, it tells the Jamaican reggae icon’s story, from birth to death, and all the excitement in between. Thanks to the support of the Marley family and the direction of Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland, Touching the Void), you can also bet it won’t be just some half-baked (we had to) roundup of Marley’s life.
Sing Your Song, meanwhile, tells the story of Harry Belafonte, the singer and, later, political activist, who captured the hearts of white and black Americans before the Civil Rights era even took hold. His transformation from the good-looking singer of our favorite Beetlejuice tunes, “Banana Boat Song (Day O)” and “Jump in the Line,” to a Civil Rights-era icon, Belafonte’s life promises some legendary excitement. However, despite the epic-ness Belafonte brings with his biographical documentary, it is a tough task going up against Bob Marley, a man who has captivated the hearts of people all over the world.Advantage: Marley
Subject Both men, without a doubt, were big influences in their era. Noble, driven, musically gifted, and of Jamaican heritage, both Belafonte and Marley dedicated their lives to their careers and their beliefs. Belafonte’s humanitarian work continues even today, and Marley’s influence seems unending even decades past his death (at least judging from frat-house bedroom walls nationwide). Is it even fair to choose?Advantage: Tie
SongsBoth trailers bring their musical A-games. Marley‘s trailer includes “Redemption Song” and a live version of “Jammin,'” Sing Your Song features Belafonte’s hits “Banana Boat Song (Day O)” and “Jump in the Line.” All four are pretty legendary, Belafonte’s two songs in part thanks to pop culture canonization in Beetlejuice. There’s no real objective way to choose between the two artists’ songs, so we’ll go subjectively and nostalgically for the ones that capped off one of our favorite movies.Advantage: Sing Your Song
IntervieweesBoth movies have some big-name talkers. With Marley, we get Bob’s wife, Rita, son Ziggy, and daughter Cedella Marley, as well as the Wailers and friends from Bob’s childhood. Sing Your Song has Belafonte himself, Sydney Poitier, Quincy Jones, Belafonte’s daughter Shari Belafonte, and people Belafonte has affected with his humanitarian work. In old footage, we get some more legends, including Bob Marley himself, and in Sing Your Song, Martin Luther King, Jr. Whether the stories are coming from the mouths of the century’s biggest names or relative unknowns doesn’t really matter. Both documentaries seem like they cover the bases of both men’s legacies.Advantage: Tie
DirectorsWhen it comes to directors, unfortunately for Sing Your Song, Marley has the win locked down. While Sing Your Song looks truly promising, it is also editor-turned-director Susanne Rostock’s first directorial endeavor. Not that we aren’t impressed by a two-minute trailer, but Marley has Kevin Macdonald as its director, the man who brought us The Last King of Scotland, which nabbed Forest Whitaker an Oscar for Best Actor, as well as some impressive documentaries: Oscar winner One Day in September and BAFTA winner Touching the Void, as well as Being Mick and Life in a Day. That’s some heavy talent behind the camera lens.Advantage: Marley
VerdictYes, Bob Marley documentaries have come and gone. Yes, Sing Your Song has our history-nerd brains all fired up. But the legend of Bob Marley has not been exhausted yet. And with Macdonald in the director’s chair, we can get over the fact that this isn’t the first or last Bob Marley documentary to enter the world. Don’t even try to say you weren’t sucked in by that “[my hair] is my identity” line.Winner: Marley
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