Amazing Grace. A documentary film featuring Aretha Franklin, set during the recording of her glorious gospel album of the same name, and shot almost fifty years ago by famed documentary filmmaker, Sydney Pollack, is finally being released … and it could be eligible for an Oscar next year.
The Queen of Soul, who died in August this year after years of struggle with illness, is widely regarded as ‘the greatest singer of all time’. Well adored for her powerful soul anthems, Aretha brought glory to every performance… Her endlessly far-reaching vocal range and cloud busting upper register, left most speechless…
Music journos lump together phrases describing Aretha’s music as “…put-your-foot-in-it, spill-your-guts-out singing…” or even “…the crackling of volcanic lightning…” but most of all, her music was characterised as “…an expression of black consciousness at a profound moment of racial self-determination…”.
The Queen of Soul reigned supreme for six decades with hits including Respect, Think, Chain of Fools and Natural Woman…
But you’ll see none of these soul-rocking classics being performed in the documentary film that is about to be released 46 years after it’s filming.
Amazing Grace – the documentary – was shot over two nights in January of 1972 at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles, depicting a young but vocally mature Aretha Franklin returning to her gospel roots.
Born from the marriage between a famous preacher and commanding gospel singer, Aretha crafted her skill from an early age, accompanying herself on piano in her parents’ living room. Gospel was always going to be her triumph, and she shaped her signature style around early interaction with some of the greatest gospel singers to ever bring the House down.
Pitchfork Magazine quotes: “At her core, she was a spirit worshipper, an anointed vessel for divine energy incarnate. The power that girds her singing is rooted in her faith, her profound sense of belonging to God; every vocal utterance she ever made was to confirm and be confirmed by spiritual energy. At her live best, Aretha transformed her audience into a congregation, fervently bringing people together on one single, soulful accord.”
The long awaited documentary will finally have its premiere screening today (Monday 12 November) in New York at the DOC NYC Film Festival and will run for one week, to qualify for the 2019 Academy Awards. A wider, worldwide release is planned for January next year, possibly coinciding with the birthday of civil rights leader Martin Luther King.
Producer Alan Elliot, who acquired the film rights in 2007, last week stated to the media: “Being able to share this film and the musical genius of Aretha Franklin with her family and the world is an honour. Aretha’s fans will be enthralled by every moment of the film as her genius, her devotion to God and her spirit are present in every frame.”
How well the long awaited film will be received by Franklin fans the world over remains to be seen … but indications are that it will be Amazing.
Ben Burger – Station Producer, Smile 90.4FM