“Amazing Grace,” featuring footage of Aretha Franklin’s legendary Gospel performances from 1972 is finally getting a theatrical release.
Neon acquired the film, which has already played at DOC NYC and AFI Fest in Los Angeles. Neon said it’s planning an early 2019 theatrical release.
The two-night performances by Franklin at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles became the best-selling double live album “Amazing Grace,” but the accompanying footage, which was shot by Sydney Pollack, was never released.
Producer Alan Elliott acquired the movie rights in 2007. According to Vulture, he was a young Atlantic Records employee in 1990 when he first learned about the long-lost movie: “Over the next 28 years, Elliott worked like a cinematic Sherlock Holmes to at first crack the case… and then to salvage the film. Along the way, Elliott mortgaged his home several times to buy the existing footage, edit the film, and pay for insurance and lawyers.”
Franklin, who died in August, sued to stop its release, but now the film is being launched with the support of her estate.
The movie includes an 11-minute version of “Amazing Grace,” as well as “Mary Don’t You Weep,” Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend,” and Marvin Gaye’s “Wholy Holy.”
Sabrina Owens, Franklin’s niece and personal representative of the Aretha Franklin estate, said, “‘Amazing Grace’ is the heart and soul of Aretha Franklin. This film is authentic and is my aunt to her core. Our family couldn’t be more excited for audiences to experience the genius of her work and spirit through this film.”
According to the New York Times, there was originally a a plan to release it as a double feature with blaxploitation movie “Superfly.”
NY Times’ Wesley Morris raved of the film: “You get both the most lovely gaze a professional camera’s ever laid upon Aretha Franklin and some of the mightiest singing she’s ever laid on you. The woman practically eulogizes herself. Don’t bother with tissues. Bring a towel.”
It’s now playing at Film Forum for a one-week-only engagement in order to qualify for Academy Award consideration.
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