Nearly 50 years after it was filmed, a documentary about the making of Aretha Franklin’s groundbreaking and best-selling 1972 album Amazing Grace has been released.
Shot over two nights in January 1972 and directed by Sydney Pollack, Amazing Grace shows Franklin, then 29, returning to her gospel roots at the New Temple Baptist Church in Los Angeles. The resulting album of the same name sold over 2 million copies in the U.S. and remains the best-selling live gospel album of all time.
According to the Associated Press, Warner Brothers Films contracted the Oscar-winning director to helm the film, with hopes it could be as popular as the concert film of Woodstock, but Pollack made critical errors, including not utilizing a machine to sync the audio to the visuals. With such problems, the film was written off by the movie studio.
Producer Alan Elliott bought the reels in 2007 and had it restored digitally. It’s been his “passion project” for two decades.
According to The Guardian, the Queen of Soul reportedly loved the film and Elliott planned to screen the doc at the Toronto and Telluride film festivals in 2015, but Franklin’s lawyers blocked its release arguing that permission to use the diva’s likeness was only granted to Pollack who passed away in 2008.
Per Variety, Elliott screened the film for Franklin’s estate after the legend’s passing. Franklin’s niece and executor, Sabrina Owens, called the film “moving and inspirational.”
Since that screening, legal clearance has been granted and the film has been entered for consideration for the 2019 Oscars.
Amazing Grace has already screened at the DOC NYC festival. It is now set for a qualifying run at the Laemmle Monica this week, followed by a week at Manhattan’s Film Forum in December. Official premiere events for Los Angeles and Detroit are in the early stages of being planned for next year.
Franklin’s estate and Elliott hope a distribution deal will come soon.
The movie includes an 11-minute version of “Amazing Grace,” “Mary Don’t You Weep, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” “Precious Memories,” Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend,” and Marvin Gaye’s “Wholy Holy.”