The long-awaited documentary about the late soul singer Aretha Franklin’s recording sessions for her seminal 1972 album Amazing Grace will debut in New York and Los Angeles on April 5.
Directed by the late Sydney Pollack, Amazing Grace features never-before-seen footage of Franklin’s recording sessions at Los Angeles’ New Temple Missionary Baptist Church for the album Amazing Grace, which became the best-selling gospel record of all time, and the biggest album of the singer’s career. The film was, at the time, scheduled to accompany the double live album but was initially scrapped due to technical issues. It was producer Alan Elliott who convinced Pollack and late Atlantic Records executive Jerry Wexler to review the documentary.
Elliott acquired the film rights in 2007 and worked with a team of producers, including Wexler, Joe Boyd, Robert Johnson, Chiemi Karasawa, Sabrina Owens, Tirrell D. Whittley and Joseph Woolf, to reboot the project.
Legal troubles, however, plagued the eventual release of Pollack’s Amazing Grace. In 2015, the feature film was pulled from the Toronto International Film Festival line-up at the producers’ request after it became the subject of a legal dispute between the production team and Franklin, who claimed the film violated her privacy, her rights to use and control her name and likeness, and her contractual and intellectual rights.
The saga around Amazing Grace continued into 2016 when in March, Franklin’s lawyers and the producers of the documentary jointly sought an injunction that prevented the film from being screened until the two parties were able to broker a deal.
The Aretha Franklin Estate eventually came to support Amazing Grace, which last fall held its world premiere at the DOC NYC festival.
Sadly, Franklin passed away in August 2018 from pancreatic cancer in her Detroit home at the age of 76.
(With files from Kevin Ritchie and Frederick Blichert)
(Image courtesy of Al’s Records and Tapes)