Aretha Franklin Bans Screening of ‘Amazing Grace’

Paras Griffin/Getty Images
Paras Griffin/Getty Images

Singer Aretha Franklin won an 11-hour bid Friday night to stop the premiere of a documentary of the making of her 1972 album Amazing Grace, which was set to show at the Telluride Film Festival in southwest Colorado.

For decades, Franklin has been fighting the release of the Amazing Grace film by Sydney Pollack, who recorded the creation of the megahit album of the same name.

The film has never been released, due to audio issues, and the singer allowed Pollack to record her sessions, under an agreement the footage would never be publicly released.

Amazing Grace was shot at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles in 1972, where Franklin recorded her album.

Pollack reportedly ran into trouble syncing the sound with his footage, and the project was eventually shelved.

Producer Alan Elliott later acquired rights to the documentary from Warner Bros., following Pollack’s 2008 death, and was able to salvage the project after fixing the technical issues.

Franklin attempted to stop a revival of the film when she sued Elliott in 2011, but according to a recap of the complaint filed Friday, the case was resolved after the singer understood Elliott did not intend to release the film to the public.

A premiere of the film was scheduled to take place Friday night, with additional screenings taking place on Saturday and Sunday, at the 500-seat Chuck Jones Cinema in Telluride, CO.

“The film is the functional equivalent of replaying an entire Aretha Franklin concert without her consent,” reads an official complaint by Franklin, which also cites the right to use her name and likeness, invasion of privacy, and anti-piracy concerns for why the film was blocked.

The complaint further states, per a deal with Warner Bros., that Elliott must have Franklin’s permission to use Pollack’s footage.

The New York Times reports Judge John L. Kane of the United States Court for Colorado granted Ms. Franklin an injunction in a “strongly worded emergency order,” citing a “high likelihood of success of the merits” of her case.

“A film that essentially recreates the entire concert experience is not fair use of this footage,” he said.

The order will expire in 14 days.

Franklin has long opposed the public screening of the film, which she argues violated her contractual and other rights, per NYT.

A spokesperson for the festival announced the ruling to attendees Friday afternoon, and said the documentary Sherpa would take its place.

Watch a trailer for the film below: