Saturday, May 18, 2024

The Documentary Aretha Franklin Never Wanted to Be Released Will Be After Deal with Estate


Aretha Franklin never wanted the 1972 filming of her singing at a Los Angeles church to be released. “Amazing Grace,” shot by Sidney Pollack, has been in the can all these years. When Allan Elliott, son Atlantic A&R man Jack Elliott, bought it in 2008, Aretha hired lawyer after lawyer to stop him. She would never explain herself other than she didn’t want it.

Aretha died on August 16th. So “Amazing Grace” is coming out.

Allan Elliott says he’s reached a deal with Aretha’s estate, represented by her niece Sabrina Owens, to go forward. He’ll show the film at DOC NYC on Monday in New York, and other venues, to qualify for the Oscars. Of course, he’s late, it’s too late for the 2019 Oscars, there’s already a ton of good docs that have been campaigning. But why make sense now?

Aretha got injunctions against Elliott twice three years ago to stop the film from being shown at the Toronto and Telluride Film Festivals. Elliott wrote to me asking if I could intervene. But when I brought up the subject, Aretha was unmoved. She did not want the movie out in public.

Why? Who knows? Elliott sent me a link to watch it, and I did. Aretha sings and plays the piano with a gospel choir. She’s sublime. Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones are in the audience. They are never introduced and say nothing. Aretha’s father, Reverend C.L. Franklin, appears and makes a speech– he was a speechifier–about Aretha. There’s nothing salacious going on.

The release of “Amazing Grace” is a good thing, I suppose, in the long run. It takes the mystery out of the film. Whatever reasons Aretha had for not releasing it are certainly moot now. Her legacy is already safe as the premiere singer of our time. This will only enhance it.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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