A Telluride Film Festival showing of a documentary about Aretha Franklin’s historic album Amazing Grace has been canceled, due to a lawsuit filed by the singer herself.
Franklin filed the lawsuit seeking “emergency injunctive release” earlier Friday, claiming that the film, also titled Amazing Grace, violated her contractual and intellectual rights, her right to privacy, and her rights to use and control her name and likeness. U.S. District Judge John Kane granted Franklin an emergency injunction against the film, a representative at the judge’s office told EW on Friday. In the court order, Judge Kane cited Franklin’s original agreement with Warner Bros., which required her consent for commercial use of the footage.
Amazing Grace, from producers Alan Elliott, Stefan Nowicki and Joey Carey, is composed heavily of 1972 footage shot by the late Sydney Pollack of Franklin’s historic performance at a church in Los Angeles. Pollack planned to use the footage for a movie for Warner Bros., but the project was shelved, and the footage stayed in Warner Bros.’ vault for more than 40 years.
In the order granting the injunction, Judge Kane noted that Franklin says she has not given permission for the film’s producers or for Telluride to screen the footage. The order also heads off fair use claims, reading, “a film that essentially recreates the entire concert experience is not fair use of the footage.”
“The balance of the equities weighs in favor of Ms. Franklin,” the order reads. “The Film Festival … could have clarified their claimed right to release this footage well in advance of this showing. … It would not be a disservice to the public to issue the requested temporary injunction.”
The Amazing Grace screening at Telluride, originally slated for Friday night, will be replaced with a showing of Sherpa, according to a spokeswoman for the festival. Sherpa is a documentary detailing the aftermath of the 2014 Mt. Everest avalanche, with a focus on how the Himalayan people handled the deaths of 16 Sherpas.
Franklin’s attorney was still in court at time of posting and could not be reached for comment. Attorneys for the festival would not comment.
Amazing Grace is next scheduled for a screening at the Toronto International Film Festival next week.
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