The long-awaited music doc Amazing Grace, featuring live performances by legendary soul singer Aretha Franklin, will finally be released, with its world premiere set for the 2018 DOC NYC festival.
The film is made up of Franklin’s performances at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles on Jan. 13 and 14, 1972.
The audience included Franklin’s father, Reverend C.L. Franklin, gospel music legends Clara Ward and Mother Ward of the Ward Family Singers, and Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones, who were in LA working on their album Exile on Main Street.
Renowned director Sydney Pollack shot the footage, intended to be used as a companion documentary to the double live album Amazing Grace, which would go on to be the biggest selling album of Aretha Franklin’s career, and the best-selling gospel album of all time. The film was never released to the public due to technical issues, including syncing the visuals with the performance audio.
Producer Alan Elliott acquired the film rights in 2007 and worked with a team of producers, including Joe Boyd, Robert Johnson, Chiemi Karasawa, Sabrina Owens, Jerry Wexler, Tirrell D. Whittley and Joseph Woolf, to bring the feature-length doc to light. The film was edited by Jeff Buchanan, and its music was mixed by Jimmy Douglass.
Amazing Grace will be presented on Nov. 12 at 6:45 p.m. and 9 p.m. at the SVA Theatre in new York.
The film was originally set to premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2015 but has been in legal limbo ever since, with Franklin then arguing the film violated her right to privacy and her rights to use and control her name and likeness and her contractual and intellectual rights. But even in the midst of the legal back-and-forth, Franklin told the Detroit Free Press: “It isn’t that I’m not happy about the film, because I love the film itself.”
Franklin died earlier this year from pancreatic cancer. The soul legend was 76.
Amazing Grace is now being released with the complete support and blessing of The Aretha Franklin Estate.
“I am thrilled to work with Sabrina Owens and the family to do right by Aretha’s legacy,” said Elliott, in a statement. “Being able to share this film and the musical genius of Aretha Franklin with her family and the world is an honor. 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.”
“Amazing Grace is the heart and soul of Aretha Franklin,” added Sabrina Owens, Franklin’s niece and the executor of the Aretha Franklin Estate. “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.”
(Image courtesy of Al’s Records and Tapes)