Franklin doc re­leased af­ter 46 years

Gospel singer’s es­tate reaches agree­ment to al­low film

St. Thomas Times-Journal - - ENTERTAINMENT - JAKE COYLE

NEW YORK — More than 46 years af­ter it was shot, the Aretha Franklin con­cert film Amaz­ing Grace will fi­nally be re­leased, end­ing one of the most tor­tured and long-run­ning sagas in doc­u­men­tary film.

The late gospel singer’s es­tate and film pro­duc­ers said Mon­day that Amaz­ing Grace will premiere Nov. 12 at the DOC NYC film fes­ti­val with the full sup­port of Franklin’s es­tate. The film, largely shot by Syd­ney Pol­lack, cap­tures Franklin’s per­for­mance at The New Tem­ple Mis­sion­ary Bap­tist Church in the Watts neigh­bour­hood of Los An­ge­les in Jan­uary 1972.

The mu­sic from the two per­for­mances was re­leased as a land­mark dou­ble live al­bum in 1972. But Pol­lack’s footage proved vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble to edit be­cause the film­maker failed to sync the sound. Af­ter ac­quir­ing the film’s rights from Pol­lack in 2007, pro­ducer Alan El­liott brought in a team to con­struct the film, which El­liott calls “a labour of love.”

“Aretha’s fans will be en­thralled by ev­ery mo­ment of the film as her ge­nius, her de­vo­tion to God and her spirit are present in ev­ery frame,” El­liot said in a state­ment.

Franklin first sued El­liott in 2011 for plan­ning to re­lease the film with­out her per­mis­sion. Amaz­ing Grace nearly saw the light of day in 2015, but it was yanked at the last minute from the Tel­luride and Toronto film fes­ti­vals af­ter Franklin’s at­tor­neys ob­tained an in­junc­tion against its re­lease. They ar­gued the film was “the func­tional equiv­a­lent of re­play­ing an en­tire Aretha Franklin con­cert,” and couldn’t be screened with­out her con­sent.

A Colorado court largely agreed, rul­ing in 2016 that the con­cert film didn’t con­sti­tute “fair use,” prompt­ing a new round of ne­go­ti­a­tions. Tel­luride also listed the film in its 2016 lineup only to pull it yet again. Last year, Tel­luride ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Julie Huntsinger told Va­ri­ety that “(Franklin’s) re­solve for it not be­ing shown is so in­tense, and I don’t think any us re­ally un­der­stand it all the way.”

Franklin passed away in Au­gust. Pol­lack died in 2008.

The late singer’s es­tate said Amaz­ing Grace was an im­por­tant part of Franklin’s legacy.

“Amaz­ing Grace is the heart and soul of Aretha Franklin,” Sab­rina Owens, Franklin’s niece, said Mon­day. “This film is au­then­tic and is my aunt at her core. She was a daugh­ter of the church, she loved gospel mu­sic and she al­ways in­cor­po­rated some form of sa­cred mu­sic in her con­certs.”

An Os­car-qual­i­fy­ing re­lease of Amaz­ing Grace is planned for this fall, with a larger roll­out in the­atres likely com­ing next year. The film doesn’t yet have dis­tri­bu­tion.

MICHAEL OCHS AR­CHIVES

Soul singer Aretha Franklin sings in the At­lantic Records stu­dio dur­ing The Weight record­ing ses­sion on Jan­uary 9, 1969 in New York City.

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