In the winter of 1972, over the course of two days, Aretha Franklin was filmed as she recorded her fourth live and best-selling gospel album titled, ‘Amazing Grace.’ The event was captured by a Warner Brothers film crew at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church that is located in Watts. She was backed by 25 members of the Southern California Community Choir and accompanied by her childhood friend Reverend James Cleveland. The album and the film were set to be released concurrently with the film sharing a double billing with the film ‘Super Fly.’
The director of this concert film was Sydney Pollack. He chose not to make cuts between the various takes which led to technical difficulties in post-production. They were unable to sync picture and sound. In 2008, the shelved film landed in the hands of producer Alan Elliot. Elliot spent the better part of two years synchronizing the film and planned to release it in 2011. Aretha was not satisfied with how she was being compensated and did not want the film released until the matter of money was resolved. All of Elliot’s attempts to screen the film at film festivals were thwarted with lawsuits.
“Justice, respect, and what is right prevailed, and one’s right to own their own self-image.” Aretha said after willing the final lawsuit in 2016. The project was once again shelved.
After Aretha passed away in 2018, someone from Aretha’s camp in Detroit reached out to Elliot and he was asked to show the film. Her camp and family members had never seen the film and upon their viewing it, things were set in motion to share the concert with the world.
There isn’t much to say about Aretha’s voice that hasn’t already been said. I understand that. What I will say is after watching this film I can’t even believe she walked among us. What a gift.