Long-lost Aretha Franklin concert film Amazing Grace to screen at AFI Fest
How sweet the sound: Forty-six years after it was filmed, the never-released Aretha Franklin concert documentary Amazing Grace will make its West Coast debut this week.
Filmed by Sydney Pollack at New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles over two nights in January 1972, Amazing Grace was originally intended as a companion piece to the live double album of the same name, which went on to become the best-selling gospel record of all time. The project was first complicated by technical issues because most of the 20 hours of footage and sound couldn’t be synchronized, and it sat on the shelf for decades until a composer and former record producer named Alan Elliott acquired it from Pollack and set out to salvage the film. (Pollack died in 2008.)
Elliott managed to sync and edit the film but became embroiled in a years-long legal dispute with Franklin over the use of her name and likeness. In the wake of the Queen of Soul’s death in August, the rights issues have been sorted out, and Amazing Grace has the support and blessing of Franklin’s estate. The film premiered Monday at the Doc NYC film festival.
Speaking to EW in 2015, Elliott characterized the film as an essential chronicle of a once-in-a-generation artist at the height of her powers. “It would be this horrible loss to our culture to not have this out into the world,” he said.