Amazing Grace (2018 film)

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Amazing Grace
Amazing grace.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Produced byJoe Boyd
Alan Elliott
Rob Johnson
Spike Lee
Sabrina V. Owens
Angie Seegers
Tirrell D. Whittley
Joseph Woolf
StarringAretha Franklin
Edited byJeff Buchanan
Al's Records & Tapes Production
Distributed byNeon
Release date
  • 12 November 2018 (2018-November-12) (Doc NYC)

April 5, 2019
Running time
87 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$3.96 million[2][3]

Amazing Grace is a critically acclaimed 2018 concert film directed by Sydney Pollack and later realized by producer Alan Elliott. The film features Aretha Franklin recording her 1972 live album of the same name, and co-stars James Cleveland, C. L. Franklin, Bernard Purdie, Chuck Rainey, Clara Ward, with cameos by Mick Jagger, Sydney Pollack, and Charlie Watts.[4]

The film was produced by Joe Boyd, Franklin, Elliott, Rob Johnson, Spike Lee, Sabrina V. Owens, Angie Seegers, Tirrell D. Whittley, and Joseph Woolf under the banner of Al's Records And Tapes, in association with TIME, 40 Acres and a Mule, Rampant and Sundial Pictures.[5]

Amazing Grace was not released on schedule in 1972 due to difficulties syncing the audio tracks with the visual print, and was relegated to the vault at Warner Bros. until 2007, when producer Alan Elliott purchased the raw footage and attempted to sync it. The pared-down footage, now 87 minutes in length, was planned for a 2011 release. However, Franklin sued Elliott for appropriating her likeness without permission, and the release date passed. Elliott made another attempt to premiere the film in 2015 at the Telluride Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, and Chicago International Film Festival, but Franklin again sued him, this time for unknown reasons.

After Franklin's death in 2018, her family made an arrangement to release the film, which premiered at the Doc NYC in 2018, before being released worldwide on April 5, 2019.


American singer-songwriter Aretha Franklin records her gospel album Amazing Grace live at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles in 1972. She is accompanied by The Southern California Community Choir seated behind her as she sings from the church's lectern to a mostly African-American audience. Singing backup is James Cleveland who also plays piano. Franklin is also accompanied by Bernard Purdie on drums and Chuck Rainey on bass guitar.[6]


Credits adapted from Rotten Tomatoes.[4]


Warner Bros.'s Music Services director Joe Boyd originally proposed that Jim Signorelli direct the film.[7] At a later date, Warner CEO Ted Ashley approached Sydney Pollack to direct the film, and Pollack accepted the assignment when he heard it was about Aretha Franklin.[7]

Filming took place over two nights at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles, where Franklin recorded her Amazing Grace album live. The album went on to become the highest-selling gospel music album of all time.[8][9] Pollack shot 20 hours of raw footage using 16 mm cameras.[8][10]

The post-production and supervision of the film were done by Final Cut USA, Inc.[11] Since Pollack had not used clapperboards, it turned out to be next to impossible to sync the audio with the video in post-production.[8][12] The project was halted and the raw footage placed in a vault at Warner Bros.; it went unseen through the 1990s.[13]


Franklin in 1968

Amazing Grace was initially scheduled for a 1972 release together with Warner Bros.'s Super Fly.[14] Due to the film's synchronization problem, the film was relegated to the Warner Bros. vaults. In 2007, producer Alan Elliott purchased the raw footage.[12][14] Subsequently, sound editor/mixer Serge Perron successfully synchronized the sound with all of the film footage.[15][16] The film, now pared down to 87 minutes, was scheduled for a 2011 release. However, Franklin sued Elliott for appropriating her likeness without permission, and the release was postponed.[14]

After Franklin's original release contract was discovered at the Warner Bros. offices, Elliott decided to release the film at the Telluride Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, and Chicago International Film Festival in 2015.[17][18] Franklin sued him again, this time for unknown reasons, and was granted an emergency injunction against the Telluride screening, saying she had not given permission to screen the footage.[19] After Franklin's death in 2018, her family made an arrangement to release the film.[20] It premiered at the Doc NYC on November 12, 2018,[21][22] and was released worldwide on April 5, 2019,[23] having its UK premiere on May 10, 2019.[24]


Box office[edit]

As of May 19, 2019, Amazing Grace has grossed US$3.93 million worldwide.[25][26]

Critical response[edit]

On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 96% based on 28 reviews, and an average rating of 8.68. The website's critical consensus reads, "Brilliantly capturing a remarkable performer near the peak of her prodigious power, Amazing Grace is a thrilling must-watch documentary for Aretha Franklin fans."[4] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 95 out of 100, based on 11 critics, indicating "Universal acclaim".[27]

Odie Henderson of wrote, "Whether you're religious or not, you owe it to yourself to see this movie if the chance arises. You'll see how much love and feeling went into the construction of the resulting album."[28] Owen Gleiberman of Variety wrote, "The movie reveals how the fundamental distinction between "rock 'n' roll" and "rhythm and blues" was not only racist at its core, but a way for the consumer culture to slice the God out of music that was invented as a way to talk to God."[29] Jordan Hoffman of The Guardian wrote, "The film is almost wall-to-wall music, with Franklin barely acknowledging the audience between songs."[6] Justin Chang of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "Aretha Franklin didn't transcend the gospel or gospel music; as first her album and now this marvelous documentary remind us, she did more than most to fulfill its potential for truth and beauty, devotion and art."[10]

Hoffman criticized the film for its failure to credit editor Jeff Buchanan as possibly "the true author of the piece".[6] Producer Chiemi Karasawa claimed that her work on the film was not compensated and filed an arbitration case against Alan Elliott upon its release.[11]


Year Award Category Result Refs.
2019 AARP Movies for Grownups Awards Best Documentary Nominated [30]
Black Reel Awards Outstanding Documentary Nominated [31]
National Society of Film Critics Awards Best Non-Fiction Film Nominated [32]
NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Documentary Won [33]


  1. ^ TIME Joins Aretha Franklin Concert Documentary Amazing Grace | | March 6, 2019
  2. ^ "Amazing Grace (2018)". Box Office Mojo. IMDB. Retrieved May 19, 2019.
  3. ^ "Amazing Grace (2018)". The Numbers. IMDB. Retrieved May 19, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c Amazing Grace (2018), retrieved March 29, 2019
  5. ^ "Amazing Grace (#2 of 2)". Retrieved May 2, 2019.
  6. ^ a b c Hoffman, Jordan (November 13, 2018). "Amazing Grace review – transcendent Aretha Franklin documentary". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved March 29, 2019.
  7. ^ a b "Amazing Grace". Retrieved April 25, 2019.
  8. ^ a b c Wilkinson, Alissa (November 15, 2018). "It took 46 years for Aretha Franklin's concert doc to come out. The wait was worth it". Vox. Retrieved March 30, 2019.
  9. ^ Petrusich, Amanda. "Aretha Franklin Is As Immortal As Can Be". The New Yorker. Retrieved August 16, 2018.
  10. ^ a b Chang, Justin. "Review: The glorious Aretha Franklin concert documentary 'Amazing Grace' finally emerges 46 years later". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 30, 2019.
  11. ^ a b Maddaus, Gene (April 5, 2019). "'Amazing Grace' Producer Says She Was Not Paid for Years of Work". Variety. Retrieved May 22, 2019.
  12. ^ a b Browne, David (November 14, 2018). "Inside the 46-Year Journey to Bring Aretha Franklin's 'Amazing Grace' Doc to Life". Rolling Stone. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
  13. ^ Burlingame, Jon (January 8, 2010). "'Grace' film finally near". Variety. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
  14. ^ a b c "Sydney Pollack's 'Amazing Grace': The Tortured 4-Decade History of the Film Aretha Franklin Wants to Stop". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
  15. ^ "Was Lost, But Now It's Found: Alan Elliott on Completing the 1972 Aretha Franklin Music Doc Amazing Grace". MovieMaker Magazine. April 4, 2019. Retrieved May 21, 2019.
  16. ^ Hildebrandt, Eleanor (November 12, 2018). "46 Years Later, Aretha Franklin's 'Amazing Grace' Resurrected by Modern Day Tech". Popular Mechanics. Retrieved May 21, 2019.
  17. ^ Willman, Chris (September 4, 2015). "Sydney Pollack's 'Amazing Grace': The Tortured 4-Decade History of the Film Aretha Franklin Wants to Stop". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 7, 2015.
  18. ^ Romano, Nick (September 6, 2015). "Amazing Grace documentary pulled from Chicago Film Festival". Retrieved September 7, 2015.
  19. ^ Clark, Noelene; Robinson, Will (September 4, 2015). "Aretha Franklin blocks Amazing Grace screening at Telluride Film Festival". Retrieved September 7, 2015.
  20. ^ Ebiri, Bilge (April 5, 2019). "Aretha Franklin's Concert Doc Amazing Grace Is Transcendent". Vulture. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
  21. ^ Powell, Alicia (November 13, 2018). "Aretha Franklin's 'Amazing Grace' concert film finally debuts". Reuters. Retrieved November 16, 2018.
  22. ^ Morris, Wesley (November 15, 2018). "Aretha Franklin Didn't Want You to See This Movie. But You Must". The New York Times. Retrieved November 24, 2018.
  23. ^ Vain, Madison (March 6, 2019). "'Amazing Grace' Trailer Shows Aretha Franklin at the Height of Her Powers". Esquire. Retrieved March 30, 2019.
  24. ^ "AMAZING GRACE - Official Trailer - Aretha Franklin Concert Film". Retrieved April 1, 2019.
  25. ^ "Amazing Grace (2019) (2018) - Box Office Mojo". Retrieved May 19, 2019.
  26. ^ "Amazing Grace (2019) (2018) - Financial Information". Retrieved May 19, 2019.
  27. ^ Amazing Grace, retrieved March 29, 2019
  28. ^ Henderson, Odie. "Amazing Grace Movie Review & Film Summary (2018) | Roger Ebert". Retrieved March 29, 2019.
  29. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (November 13, 2018). "DOC NYC Film Review: 'Amazing Grace'". Variety. Retrieved March 29, 2019.
  30. ^ Appelo, Tim. "2018 Movies for Grownups Awards Nominees". AARP. Retrieved March 29, 2019.
  31. ^ French, Alan (December 14, 2018). "19th Annual Black Reel Awards Announces Nominations - 'Black Panther' Breaks Records • by Clayton Davis". by Clayton Davis. Retrieved March 29, 2019.
  32. ^ Sheehan, Paul (January 5, 2019). "2019 National Society of Film Critics Awards: Complete list of winners led by 'The Rider,' Olivia Colman, Ethan Hawke". GoldDerby. Retrieved March 29, 2019.
  33. ^ Stidhum, Tonja Renée. "The 2019 NAACP Image Awards Noms Are Here. Naturally, Wakanda Is Forever Winning with Black Panther". The Grapevine. Retrieved March 30, 2019.

External links[edit]