Aretha Franklin Bans 'Amazing Grace' Doc Screenings

1972 documentary about recording of classic live LP barred from premiering at Telluride Film Festival

Aretha Franklin has stopped 'Amazing Grace,' a documentary about the singer's classic 1972 live album, from premiering at the Telluride Film Festival. Credit: Leni Sinclair/Michael Ochs Archives

UPDATE: The Toronto Film Festival will not be able to screen Sydney Pollack's controversial new Aretha Franklin doc Amazing Grace, according to Variety. The singer had previously banned the film at last week's Telluride Film Festival, arguing that she did not give Pollack consent to use selected footage. 

Aretha Franklin was granted a last-minute injunction to prevent the Sydney Pollack-directed documentary Amazing Grace from premiering at the Telluride Film Festival. The film – which features Franklin's 1972 performance at Los Angeles' New Temple Missionary Baptist Church but was never released due to sound problems – was set to screen for the first time Friday night. However, organizers alerted attendees, "a Colorado judge has granted the injunction to block the screening of Amazing Grace at the Telluride Film Festival," The Hollywood Reporter writes.

Amazing Grace was also scheduled to screen at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it was one of Rolling Stone's most anticipated films of the fest, but that screening too is now in jeopardy. Following the death of Pollack in 2008, producer Alan Elliott acquired Amazing Grace footage through Warner Bros. Studios with a quitclaim deed. However, Wright still required the permission of Franklin to release the film, something he had not obtained prior to the Telluride screening.

"[Wright] had to have permission from her and he didn't," Judge John Kane told THR of his ruling. "He went ahead without having her consent." During the injunction proceedings, Franklin called into the courthouse from Detroit to provide 10 minutes of testimony. "Aretha Franklin has spent over 50 years developing her art," Franklin's attorney Fred Fresard told THR. "Congress passed laws to protect artists like her. The producers needed to get her permission. So we think this was the right decision and we are very happy with the result."

"Justice, respect and what is right prevailed and one's right to own their own self-image," Franklin said in a statement Saturday.

Pollack's documentary featured a behind-the-scenes look at the recording of Franklin's 1972 live album Amazing Grace, the highest-selling album of Franklin's career and the best-selling gospel album of all time. However, problems with the synchronization of the sound forced Pollack to abandon the film, which languished in the Warner Bros. vaults for 38 years until Wright unearthed the project after Pollack expressed an interest in completing the film prior to his 2008 death.

"The spirit of this album transcends the notion of an old-fashioned church revival. It often sounds like a homecoming celebration for Aretha's return," Jon Landau wrote in his 1972 Amazing Grace review for Rolling Stone. "There is pleasure in the audience at hearing her do things she hasn't done for them in years. And we frequently sense that she is not just leading them, but they are leading her. The sense of event reaches its zenith when Reverend Franklin allows that '... if you wanna know the truth, she hasn't ever left the church.'"