Review: ‘Amazing Grace’ is a Raw, Powerful, and Soul-Nourishing Experience

A time capsule that’s as fresh and powerful an experience as it must have been when recorded live in Watts in 1972, Amazing Grace is arguably one of the year’s most-anticipated films arriving after years of litigation and a near-fatal technical glitch that was resolved thanks to digital workflows. Following the success of concert films like Woodstock and director Sydney Pollack’s They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? and The Way We Were, the young director was retained by Warner Brothers to shoot the recording of Aretha Franklin’s landmark album. The singer, after a string of successful singles, decided to return to her roots singling gospel in church accompanied by the Southern California Gospel Choir and the Reverend James Cleveland.

The album would go on to sell two million copies and achieve double platinum certification, and while its jacket advertised an upcoming motion picture, the film sat in the vaults of Warner Brothers.
See full article at The Film Stage »

The Best Documentaries of 2018

An epic concert from nearly a half-century ago, sports documentaries that break the mold, a look at the American Midwest, a document of a film that never was — these were just a few of the subjects and stories that this year’s documentary offerings brought us. With 2018 wrapping up, we’ve selected 16 features in the field that left us most impressed, so check out our list below and, in the comments, let us know your favorites.

Amazing Grace (Sydney Pollack)

A time capsule that’s as fresh and powerful an experience as it must have been when recorded live in Watts in 1972, Amazing Grace is arguably one of the year’s most-anticipated films arriving after years of litigation and a fetal technical glitch that was finally resolved thanks to digital workflows and persistence. What remains is a powerful and captivating performance by the great Aretha Franklin as she opts to
See full article at The Film Stage »

Sydney Pollack Doesn’t Have a Director Credit for ‘Amazing Grace’: The Long, Strange Story

Producer Alan Elliott has been nothing if not dogged in his pursuit of finishing and releasing Sydney Pollack’s 1972 documentary “Amazing Grace.” But until now he has not told the whole story about some of the wrangling that went on behind the scenes in order to get the movie made.

Back in 1972, a year after their massive hit “Woodstock,” Warner Bros. exec Ted Ashley set out to produce another music documentary with the help of Pink Floyd producer Joe Boyd, director of music services at Warner Bros. So Boyd set out to find someone to shoot the Aretha Franklin concert movie in Watts, which required someone who understood how to shoot multiple cameras with sync sound.

Boyd wanted to hire James Signorelli as his director of photography, who shot “Super Fly” and went on to shoot the first 35 years of commercials for “Saturday Night Live,” until Ashley talked up the
See full article at Thompson on Hollywood »

Sydney Pollack Doesn’t Have a Director Credit for ‘Amazing Grace’: The Long, Strange Story

  • Indiewire
Producer Alan Elliott has been nothing if not dogged in his pursuit of finishing and releasing Sydney Pollack’s 1972 documentary “Amazing Grace.” But until now he has not told the whole story about some of the wrangling that went on behind the scenes in order to get the movie made.

Back in 1972, a year after their massive hit “Woodstock,” Warner Bros. exec Ted Ashley set out to produce another music documentary with the help of Pink Floyd producer Joe Boyd, director of music services at Warner Bros. So Boyd set out to find someone to shoot the Aretha Franklin concert movie in Watts, which required someone who understood how to shoot multiple cameras with sync sound.

Boyd wanted to hire James Signorelli as his director of photography, who shot “Super Fly” and went on to shoot the first 35 years of commercials for “Saturday Night Live,” until Ashley talked up the
See full article at Indiewire »

‘Amazing Grace’ Documentary On Riveting Aretha Franklin Gospel Performance Makes Late Bid For Oscar Attention

  • Deadline
‘Amazing Grace’ Documentary On Riveting Aretha Franklin Gospel Performance Makes Late Bid For Oscar Attention
A late entrant into the Oscar documentary race could prove a formidable contender.

Amazing Grace, which documents the live recording of Aretha Franklin’s gospel album in 1972, had been mired in technical and legal limbo for 46 years before its dramatic and unexpected debut at the Doc NYC festival last month. Since then it has rapidly picked up steam with a last-minute Oscar-qualifying run in New York and La theaters, earning a rapturous response from a legion of admirers—Spike Lee among them.

“One of the greatest concerts ever put to film,” declares Lee, who hosted a private screening in La on Friday night, adding “As we know, Aretha is one of the world’s treasures—not just the United States of America, but the world’s treasures.”

There is ample evidence to support that opinion in the footage, which was originally filmed by director Sydney Pollack over two nights at
See full article at Deadline »

Aretha Franklin Documentary ‘Amazing Grace’ Will Set a Film Forum Record

  • Indiewire
Aretha Franklin Documentary ‘Amazing Grace’ Will Set a Film Forum Record
Aretha Franklin documentary “Amazing Grace” will set a one-week record for New York’s Film Forum, where it opened December 7 — the same day that Neon announced that the company acquired it for distribution.

The box-office calculation is based on sold-out shows and advance sales through December 13, when it’s on track to make at least $75,000. The previous best at the lower Manhattan location was “I Am Not Your Negro” two years ago, which took in $73,000 for its first seven days. That film went on to a Best Documentary Oscar nomination and to an extraordinary over $7 million nationwide. This looks potentially to be even bigger: The estimated gross for Friday is $12,000, which projects to an opening weekend of at least $40,000.

Film Forum’s one-week locked-in “Amazing Grace” booking is playing for the awards qualifying process, and seeking strong reviews ahead of Tuesday’s deadline for Academy members to vote on potential nominees for Best Feature Documentary.
See full article at Indiewire »

Aretha Franklin Concert Film ‘Amazing Grace’ Sets Theatrical Release for Early 2019

Aretha Franklin Concert Film ‘Amazing Grace’ Sets Theatrical Release for Early 2019
The long-shelved Aretha Franklin concert film Amazing Grace will receive a nationwide release in early 2019. Following the Queen of Soul’s death in August, the 1972 film was finally unveiled at the Doc NYC festival ahead its Oscar-qualifying run in Los Angeles and New York.

Franklin’s estate and film distributor Neon announced an agreement for the North American release of Amazing Grace, which captures the then-29-year-old Franklin teaming with the choir at the New Bethel Baptist Church in Watts, Los Angeles.

“Amazing Grace is the heart and soul of Aretha Franklin,
See full article at Rolling Stone »

Aretha Franklin Documentary ‘Amazing Grace’ Acquired by Neon for March 2019 Release

  • The Wrap
Aretha Franklin Documentary ‘Amazing Grace’ Acquired by Neon for March 2019 Release
Neon has acquired the North American rights to “Amazing Grace,” the Aretha Franklin documentary film that made its world premiere at Doc NYC and then screened at the AFI Film Festival in November, the distributor announced.

The company is planning a March 2019 theatrical release, and it has already opened in New York and Los Angeles for an Oscar-qualifying run.

Directed by the late Sydney Pollack and produced by Alan Elliott, the 1972 concert film presents Aretha Franklin with a choir at the New Bethel Baptist Church in Watts back when the legendary queen of soul was 29 years old and at the peak of her vocal powers.

The late soul singer previously brought legal action against the film in 2015, successfully blocking it from screening at several film festivals and arguing that the concert footage couldn
See full article at The Wrap »

Aretha Franklin doc 'Amazing Grace' lands at Neon

Aretha Franklin doc 'Amazing Grace' lands at Neon
Late singer’s estate rep and niece says, ’This film is authentic and is my aunt to her core.’

After decades of delays and an eleventh-hour intervention by the late singer herself, Us viewers will finally get the chance to see the Aretha Franklin concert doc Amazing Grace in theatres. Neon announced on Friday (7) it had picked up North American rights and has set an Oscar-qualifying run in New York and Los Angeles

Amazing Grace premiered at Doc NYC and went on to play AFI Fest. Neon, who launched awards contender and box office hit Three Identical Strangers earlier in
See full article at ScreenDaily »

Aretha Franklin Documentary ‘Amazing Grace’ Bought by Neon

  • Variety
Neon has acquired the North American rights to the Aretha Franklin documentary “Amazing Grace,” a month after the movie premiered at Doc NYC.

Neon said it’s planning an early 2019 theatrical release.

The film, shot in 1972 by Sydney Pollack at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles, was originally planned by Warner Bros. Pictures as a companion documentary to the double live album “Amazing Grace,” which became Franklin’s best-selling album, but technical issues prevented the release of the pic.

Producer Alan Elliott acquired the movie rights in 2007 and worked with a team of producers, including Joe Boyd, Robert Johnson, Chiemi Karasawa, Sabrina Owens, Jerry Wexler, Tirrell D. Whittley, and Joseph Woolf. Franklin, who died in August, went to court repeatedly to stop its release. “Amazing Grace” is being launched with the support of Franklin’s estate.

The movie includes an 11-minute version of “Amazing Grace,” “Mary Don’t You Weep,
See full article at Variety »

‘Amazing Grace’: Neon Picks Up Long-Delayed Aretha Franklin Doc for 2019 Release

‘Amazing Grace’: Neon Picks Up Long-Delayed Aretha Franklin Doc for 2019 Release
Boutique Neon has picked up the North American rights to “Amazing Grace,” the long-delayed concert documentary that follows Aretha Franklin during a seminal 1972 show. The film had its world premiere at Doc NYC and also screened at AFI Fest. Neon will release the film theatrically in 2019, although it has already received an Oscar-qualifying run in New York and Los Angeles.

Per its official synopsis, the long-awaited documentary has now been “realized by Alan Elliott” and “presents Aretha Franklin with choir at the New Bethel Baptist Church in Watts, when the legendary queen of soul was 29 years-old and at the peak of her vocal powers. Elliott produced alongside Joe Boyd, Chiemi Karasawa, Rob Johnson, Sabrina Owens, Tirrell D. Whittley, Jerry Wexler and Joseph Woolf.” A young Sydney Pollack was hired to direct the project, though it remained unfinished for decades.

As IndieWire’s Anne Thompson wrote earlier this year, “Pollack captured
See full article at Indiewire »

Aretha Franklin’s ‘Amazing Grace’ Acquired By Neon, Will Get Early 2019 Release

  • Deadline
Neon has acquired North American rights to Amazing Grace, the Aretha Franklin concert film that has taken 45 years to get to a big screen. The 1972 concert documentary, shot by Sydney Pollack, chronicles Franklin’s famed performance with the choir at the New Bethel Baptist Church in Watts when she was 29, which became the genesis of the biggest-selling gospel album of all time. It has been mired in legal technicalities ever since.

The pic finally had its world premiere at Doc NYC and then screened at AFI Fest as part of an Oscar-qualifying run that began last month in L.A. It continues that run beginning today in New York at the Film Forum. Neon is now planning an early 2019 theatrical release.

Alan Elliott produced alongside Joe Boyd, Chiemi Karasawa, Rob Johnson, Sabrina Owens, Tirrell D. Whittley, Jerry Wexler and Joseph Woolf.

“Amazing Grace is the heart and soul of Aretha Franklin,
See full article at Deadline »

Hallelujah! A miracle has occurred this awards season as the long-delayed Aretha Franklin doc ‘Amazing Grace’ arrives [Exclusive Video Interview]

Hallelujah!  A miracle has occurred this awards season as the long-delayed Aretha Franklin doc ‘Amazing Grace’ arrives [Exclusive Video Interview]
A bit of a miracle has crashed this awards season, one that has been 46 years in the making, after managing to qualify for an Oscar run with just minutes to spare in October. “Amazing Grace” is an infamous documentary that is a companion to Aretha Franklin’s same-titled, biggest-selling album – a Grammy winner with more than 2 million copies sold — that was recorded at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles over two days in January 1972. The film, directed by Sydney Pollack, was kept in a vault by Warner Bros. when sound syncing problems prevented its release. But even when those flaws were erased thanks to digital technology,the Queen of Soul herself refused to allow the doc to see the light of day.

That is, until now. Producer Alan Elliott, who bought the rights to the footage that captures the then-29-year-old performer wailing the gospel music of
See full article at Gold Derby »

Paul Schrader On ‘First Reformed’, Martin Scorsese & Why The 1970s Produced “Better Audiences”: BAFTA Screenwriters Series

  • Deadline
Paul Schrader On ‘First Reformed’, Martin Scorsese & Why The 1970s Produced “Better Audiences”: BAFTA Screenwriters Series
Paul Schrader, whose scripts for iconic movies such as Taxi Driver and Raging Bull are synonymous with what many consider a golden era of Hollywood filmmaking, discussed why the 1970s was such a potent time for cinema, his collaborations with Martin Scorsese and his latest drama First Reformed at a BAFTA Screenwriters Series in London.

Schrader, who transitioned from writing scripts for the likes of Scorsese, Sydney Pollack and Brian De Palma, to directing his own screenplays, offered his view on why the 1970s proved such a fertile time for U.S. cinema and how audiences compare today.

“There are people who talk about the American cinema of the ‘70s as some halcyon period,” said the Hollywood veteran. “It was to a degree but not because there were any more talented filmmakers. There’s probably, in fact, more talented filmmakers today than there was in the ‘70s. What there was
See full article at Deadline »

“Amazing Grace” pays tribute to Aretha Franklin

Any kind of film that’s been lost to the ages fascinates me. There are a few notorious ones, though most ultimately see the light of day before all is said and done. Up until recently, the 1972 concert documentary about Aretha Franklin, Amazing Grace, was thought to be under lock and key. Franklin’s death led directly to its upcoming release, as you’ll see below, so there’s a tinge of tragedy surrounding the fact that we’re finally seeing it. Beyond that, though, there’s the joy at getting to watch a legend in her element, one last time. It begins screening this week for its Oscar qualifying run, before a wider berth next week, and it will likely bring in quite a crowd. This documentary is a filmed concert, essentially. Shot by director Sydney Pollack in 1972, it sees Aretha Franklin record her gospel album in a church,
See full article at Hollywoodnews.com »

‘The Favourite’ Notches Year-Best Numbers; ‘Roma’ Makes Netflix History

  • Indiewire
‘The Favourite’ Notches Year-Best Numbers; ‘Roma’ Makes Netflix History
This major holiday weekend marked the openings of three high-profile specialized films: Venice-winner “Roma” (Netflix), “The Favourite” (Fox Searchlight), and Cannes-winner “Shoplifters” (Magnolia). Led by “Roma” and “Shoplifters,” they all earned Metacritic scores of 92 or higher, the best reviews for a non-documentary of 2018.

All three art films from the top international auteurs of our time performed well, lost further revenue because of capacity issues, and were successfully launched into top awards consideration.

A fourth film, Sydney Pollack’s long-delayed Aretha Franklin gospel recording session “Amazing Grace,” opened for a one-week Oscar-qualifying run in Los Angeles (it still has no distributor).

Visual and aural cinematic feat “Roma”‘s Oscar potential drove distributor Netflix to accord the Participant Media film the most extensive advance platform release and theatrical run of any Original before their Netflix streaming date (December 14). After wide festival play and rapturous media attention, the subtitled Mexican Oscar entry built
See full article at Indiewire »

Check Out Trailer And Poster For Aretha Franklin Docu ‘Amazing Grace’

  • Deadline
Check Out Trailer And Poster For Aretha Franklin Docu ‘Amazing Grace’
Here is the trailer and poster for Amazing Grace, the Sydney Pollack-directed documentary shot in 1972 at the New Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles when Aretha Franklin was 29 and at the peak of her vocal powers. The album became the biggest-selling ever in gospel, but the film was mired in technicalities for decades. The reaction to its AFI Fest premiere last week was rapturous. The film’s rollout begins with its Oscar qualifying runs. It screens at the Laemmle Monica in Santa Monica and the Laemmle Playhouse 7 in Pasadena from November 23-29. In New York, the qualifying run is December 7-13 at the Film Forum.

Check out the trailer above and the poster here:
See full article at Deadline »

The Doomed Devotion of Dance Cinema

  • MUBI
To bop, shimmy, tango, shake, wriggle; movement is the intrinsic lifeblood of the cinema, and from its earliest days it was physical motion that best exhibited the novel technology of the movies. Dance was one of the foremost of those visual pleasures, generally seen as escapist entertainment. This was even more the case as films blossomed into sound and the musical became de rigeur. Initially, dance was stage-bound and limited by heavy equipment required to record its subjects, but it didn’t take very long for song and dance numbers to reach a greater potential, especially under the auspices of talents like choreographer Busby Berkeley, with his dazzling geometric formations of chorines. In the forties, there came the wholesome vitality of MGM’s Freed Unit musicals. With their chirpy songs and rosy-cheeked pictures of good health, it’s difficult to detect any darkness in their depths. Yet dance, like any art form,
See full article at MUBI »

Aretha Franklin Documentary ‘Amazing Grace’: Helping Her ‘Family to Heal and Move on’

  • Variety
Aretha Franklin Documentary ‘Amazing Grace’: Helping Her ‘Family to Heal and Move on’
The audience that witnessed Doc NYC’s Monday world premiere of the moving and soulful Aretha Franklin church concert doc “Amazing Grace,” captured on film by Sydney Pollack in 1972, was fortunate indeed. But for actress Gina Gershon and the late Queen of Soul’s nephew Vaughn Franklin, the screening at Manhattan’s Sva Theatre was something far more profound: a family celebration.

“When all of her siblings passed away back-to-back — our aunt Erma, and nine weeks later, my father [in 2002], she stepped in and became our surrogate mother, our rock and our foundation,” said Franklin, who attended the premiere with Sabrina Owens (Aretha’s niece and the film’s exec producer) and two other relatives. “She helped us mourn and get over our grief, so whenever I can see her now, it feels like she’s reaching out to me and telling me certain things in her music. We’re still
See full article at Variety »

Inside the 46-Year Journey to Bring Aretha Franklin’s ‘Amazing Grace’ Doc to Life

In 1990, Alan Elliott was a newly hired A&R man at Atlantic Records when he took a get-acquainted meeting with one of the label’s Mount Rushmore figures, producer Jerry Wexler. Wexler’s days with Aretha Franklin soon came up. “He said to me, ‘You heard Amazing Grace, right?’” recalls Elliott, referring to Franklin’s seminal 1972 gospel album. “I said it was my favorite record. He was a gruff fella, and he said, ‘We filmed it. We made the record and the film company made the film but fucked it up.
See full article at Rolling Stone »
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