Aretha Franklin's "Amazing Grace" concert film will finally be released

In January 1972, Aretha Franklin performed at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles' Watts neighborhood. The LP of those performances is an absolutely breathtaking celebration of soul gospel. It won a Grammy, became the biggest selling live gospel record in history, and remains the highest selling record of Franklin's career. Filmmaker Sydney Pollack documented the performance and the plan was to release the concert movie as a double feature with Super Fly during the summer of 1972. The problem though is that Pollack hadn't used a clapper board during the filming that would enable him to sync the audio and footage from the five cameras. With no way to properly edit the film, the project was shelved until about ten years ago. And in a few months, the world will finally see it. From the New York Times:

(Alan) Elliott, who had been obsessed with the lost footage since working as a music executive in the mid-1980s, ultimately persuaded Warner to sell him the reels in 2007. (He mortgaged his house.) By 2010, digital technology had evolved to a point that syncing film and sound was finally possible....

As a planned release date approached in 2011, however, Ms. Franklin sued Mr. Elliott for using her likeness without her permission. That started years of legal wrangling, with Ms. Franklin and her lawyers blocking Mr. Elliott and the Telluride Film Festival from showing “Amazing Grace” in 2015 and 2016, even after deals for her compensation seemed to have been worked out. The singer’s opposition appeared not to have anything to do with the film’s content, which she had said publicly that she “loved.”

Film insiders speculated that the release of the movie, which ends with a young Ms. Franklin performing “Never Grow Old,” was simply too difficult for the ailing singer to confront — that she knew it amounted to a eulogy.

After Franklin died, Sabrina Owens, Franklin's niece and executor of her estate, invited Elliott to screen the film for her family. “There was clapping and crying,” Ms. Owens said.

Amazing Grace will premiere on November 12 in New York City hopefully followed by a wider release in January.

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