Thursday , March 23 2023

Aretha Franklin's "Amazing Grace", finally, in theaters


Aretha Franklin attends the Philadelphia Mann Arts Show Center on July 27, 2010. (AP pic)

NEW YORK: Three years ago, Alan Elliott was at the Telluride Film Festival, ready to reveal the holy speech of musical works: a documentary about Aretha Franklin's "Amazing Grace," lost in archives until Elliott spent decades restoring so that it can be seen in the end.

But then, through lawyers, he said the queen of the soul himself was trying to hinder the presentation of the film. Elliott's business partner, Tirrell Whittley, remembers the moment as "deflation."

"It was disappointing." Try to figure out what happened, "said Whittley.

But, as Elliott and Whittley were determined to receive the documentary in the world, they decided not to fight Franklin.

"He would simply be the wrong and wrong spirit," Whittley said, adding later: "Talking to Alan was really around patience and he said," You know what? It is possible that God did not mean that right now. And it's okay. Let's be patient. When God says it is the right time, it will be the right time, not just for us, but for her, her family, her inheritance. "

It was that time, three months after Franklin's death from pancreatic cancer, with the blessing of his family. And while there are parts of the "Amazing Grace" that are tough, from a few defense angles outside the room to the puppet editing, it is a profound and shining poster of one of the greatest singers in the world who plays in the element they – the church.

"It's the most important documentary of American pop music ever shot," Elliott said. "It's completely unique to any other experience I've ever seen and I've seen many of them."

The album "Amazing Grace" is one of the seminal albums in Franklin's discography, but the American pop music canon. Franklin, aged 29 and at the height of his fame, recorded the album in a church in Los Angeles in 1972 with a full choir and audience that included Mick Jagger in two nights. Legendary star of the gospel, James Cleveland, directed the choir. Franklin's famous father, Rev. CL Franklin spoke at the pulpit in his daughter's praise, while the revered gospel star Clara Ward was on the front row.

Warner Brothers Films contracted Oscar-winning director Sydney Pollack to take over the film, hoping it could be as popular as Woodstock's concert film. But Pollack made critical mistakes, including not using a car to synchronize the sound with visual images. With such problems, the film was written by the movie studio. While the album will go double platinum and become one of the best-selling evangelical albums of all time, the movie was forgotten – but not by everyone.

Jerry Wexler, the renowned record producer Atlantic Records, who welcomed many of Franklin's greatest hits, told Elliott, his 25-year-old musician protector, about his hopes of making the movie on screen and has become Elliott "Project of Passion" for two decades.

According to Sabrina Owens, Franklin's niece, the legend has talked about her love for the film. But until Elliott and Whittley were ready to release him, Franklin was not ready to see the world.

"Honestly, I do not know what her concerns are," Owens said. "I did not really talk about her business … I know for loving the movie.

Elliott suspects that she may have been frustrated with the poor handling of the project.

"I'm sure she was upset that Warner Films did not finish the movie as she expected it to be, and it was probably something that stayed with her," he said.

Elliott spoke to Franklin about the project only once – and very briefly. Elliott went to a Franklin concert and then waited behind the queen's soul to beat him, and when he did, he was nervous about the film project he hired with Wexler.

"And she said," Yeah, we'll talk. "And she left.

He did not talk to her afterwards, but she kept in touch with her family over the years, especially with Owens, to give him updates on the project. After Telluride's order, Elliott stretched again, and Owens explained that her aunt was ill. This revelation reinforced Elliott's approach to being patient; he had hoped that a recovered Franklin would be involved in the project at some point.

"There was no place to be a part of the film while she did not do well," he said. "I did not know how sick she was, and I did not know how long she was sick."

Owens invited Elliott to Franklin's funeral, and a few weeks later, Elliott shot the film for about 60 members of his family. The reaction was immediate and effusive, and then the family accepted the release of the film.

"It was interesting to see her at that age and her voice was clear, and she just sings the heart and the soul out and almost every song makes you cry or makes you feel like a kind, just like all the rest of her music, She said Owens. "It was great. I liked the performance. "

"Amazing Grace" does not have a distributor yet, but Whittley and Elliott show him in New York and Los Angeles to make an impulse during the Oscar season, hoping he could win a nomination for the best documentary, his release.

"This movie will take you to the church," Franklin Vaughn Franklin's nephew said. "You know, I expect to see people stand up, tears coming down and holding hands, laughing and joking … the whole range of emotions I think will come out there."

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