Amazing Grace

The Queen Of Soul Like You've Never Seen Her Before

“Respect”, “Chain of Fools”, “Think”, “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”. Just by reading the titles, your music heart is already flooding with enthusiasm, happiness, and soul.

Whether she sang it at her local church in Detroit, the New Bethel Baptist Church, or at one of the biggest recording studios in the world, the American singer, songwriter, and pianist Aretha Franklin certainly knew how to touch people from the very first note.

Sadly, the Queen of Soul died last year but now she’s honoured in the most beautiful and honest way possible with the wonderful documentary “Amazing Grace”.

Throwback to January 13–14, 1972. In the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles, hundreds of people are coming together to see Miss Aretha Franklin perform, accompanied by the Southern California Community Choir. Even the likes of Mick Jagger, Clara Ward, and Charlie Watts come down to witness something unique.

Seeing her in concert is always a treat but this time it’s even more special. During the two nights, her newest double album “Amazing Grace” will be recorded in front of that live audience.

What starts as a humble concert will turn into a swinging and soulful night with outstanding music! Songs like “”On Our Way”, ““What a Friend We Have In Jesus” and “Amazing Grace” turn the quiet church into a holy, swinging and lively gathering during the first night while the second night is getting its soul from “Mary Don’t You Weep”, “Climbing Higher Mountains” and “Never Grow Old”.

Turning the recording of the live album into a documentary/concert film was always the idea but the making didn’t happen without any struggles.

It was originally planned that the movie would see the light of day in 1972 but due to sound-image synchronising problems, director Sydney Pollack had to shelve his film for more than 38 years. Right before his death, he turned the footage over to director-producer Alan Elliott who, after more than two years, managed to perfect the synchronisation.

Finally, ready and included in the line-up of film festivals such as the Telluride Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival, “Amazing Grace” would get the audience it deserved. However, it was Miss Franklin herself who stopped the release for still unknown reasons. It was three months after her death that the film was finally released.

It’s a blessing that it was released because the documentary is without a doubt one of the most honest documentaries ever made.

While music documentaries such as the “George Michael: Freedom”, “Leaving Neverland” and “It Might Get Loud” mostly focus on the life, gossip and background of the artist(s) and push the music (a little bit) to the background, this one is purely about the smashing and touching performance of Franklin.

Sitting in your cinema chair for almost 90 minutes, you feel like you’re in the audience alongside the people who were lucky to see the performance live.

The fact that the film was shot with 16 mm film cameras, the lack of special effects and modern editing techniques and inclusions of the technological difficulties, give this “Amazing Grace” an even more authentic vibe.

Why the Queen of Soul was against the release of this film still remains a mystery but now the documentary is finally ready to be heard and seen. More than 46 years after the original concert was filmed by Pollack and after a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, “Amazing Grace” turned out to become an immensely soulful, beautifully made, and wonderfully honest documentary about a remarkable woman with a powerhouse voice. The movie will grace the UK screens with its presence from the 10th of May.

A documentary presenting Aretha Franklin with choir at the New Bethel Baptist Church in Watts, Los Angeles in January 1972.

10th May 2019

Alan Elliott, Sydney Pollack

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