Genre: Documentary, Music. Dirs: Alan Elliott, Sydney Pollack. Country: USA.
“The glorious Aretha Franklin concert documentary Amazing Grace finally emerges 46 years later … an unmitigated joy.” – Los Angeles Times
Aretha Franklin was the daughter of a preacher man who honed her stupendous talents in gospel music. In 1972, aged 29 and at her Grammy-winning peak, she recorded a live album at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles. Director Sydney Pollack, then a talented up-and-comer, was there to document Franklin’s musical homecoming.
Amazing Grace would become Franklin’s biggest-selling album, but sound synchronisation problems kept Pollack’s footage in the vault. Then came legal dramas fraught enough to make a film themselves: for her own reasons, Franklin didn’t want the footage shown. After her death in 2018, her family gladly gave permission for audiences to witness something truly transcendent.
The power of Amazing Grace is its simple immediacy. The restored film puts you right there in the church, getting uplifted with a congregation of family and friends including Franklin’s dad and Mick Jagger. And at its centre is the Queen of Soul, shifting effortlessly from serenity to pure devotion.
“It’s the closest thing to witnessing a miracle.” – Rolling Stone