Seven years after the untimely death of singer Jeff Buckley comes the documentary Amazing Grace: Jeff Buckley, which premiered in New York City Saturday.
Directed by first-time filmmakers Nyla Bialek Adams and Laurie Trombley, the film features interview and performance footage of Buckley, spanning his entire life and career — from his legendary gigs at New York cafe Sin-e in the early Nineties to his final recording sessions before his drowning in 1997 at the age of thirty. Mary Guibert, Buckley’s mother and manager of his estate, gave her blessing to the project.
“It’s an emotional thing for me because he’s so damn beautiful, and I miss him so much,” she tells Rolling Stone of the film. “I love the moments [the directors] chose.” Moments such as when Buckley is asked what his influences are. He simply responds, “Love, depression, anger, joy . . . and Zeppelin.”
Amazing Grace took six years to make and was self-financed. For co-director Trombley, the filmmaking process was personal — she knew Buckley when she was a college intern handling his fan relations. “He was a wonderful human being,” she remembers, “and it was really important to me that we do something to carry on his legacy.”
Trombley introduced Buckley’s music to Adams, who then initiated the project. “Jeff’s music blew me away,” says Adams. “I cried the first time I heard Grace [the only album Buckley released in his lifetime] — I asked Laurie if other people felt that way too. So that’s how we got the idea of talking to people who were inspired by Jeff.”
The film also includes reflections from artists like Audioslave singer Chris Cornell, Duncan Sheik and former Skid Row singer Sebastian Bach, who performed a headbanging version of Buckley’s “Eternal Life” live. “If Jeff were to suddenly appear to see it, he might say it was his favorite part [of the film],” muses Guibert of the odd match.
This year marks the tenth anniversary of the release of Grace. The record was remastered and reissued in August as Grace: Legacy Edition, a two-disc set featuring eight previously unreleased studio and live recordings, as well as a DVD featuring a half-hour interview with Buckley. With this new edition and previous posthumous releases — 1998’s collection of demos and works in progress Sketches (For My Sweetheart the Drunk) and 2000’s live album Mystery White Boy — Guibert admits that this may be all we’ll see from the archives.
“What Jeff did in the studio has been gone through,” she explains. “There was one more session that was made around the time of [1993’s] Live at Sin-e sessions that has not been touched. In terms of major releases, we are at the end of that. There really isn’t that much for us to go back to.”
Of her son’s enduring popularity since his death, Guibert offers this: “The heartfelt adoration of the fans buoys my spirits. It is the reason for all of the days and nights I’ve spent since Jeff’s passing.”