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
Production
companies
Al's Records & Tapes Production
Distributed byNeon
Time[1]
Release date
  • 12 November 2018 (2018-November-12) (Doc NYC)
  • 5 April 2019 (2019-April-05) (Worldwide)
Running time
87 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Box office$5.12 million[2][3]

Amazing Grace is a 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. The film was met with critical acclaim.

Synopsis[edit]

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, directed by Alexander Hamilton, seated behind her as she sings from the church's lectern to a mostly African-American audience. James Cleveland appears as a featured singer and a piano accompanist. Franklin is also accompanied by Bernard Purdie on drums and Chuck Rainey on bass guitar.[6]

Cast[edit]

Credits adapted from Rotten Tomatoes.[4]

Production[edit]

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]

Release[edit]

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][17] Once all the sound and footage were synchronized, Jeff Buchanan proceeded with the editing of the film.[17] 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.[18][19] 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.[20] After Franklin's death in 2018, her family made an arrangement to release the film.[21] It premiered at the Doc NYC on November 12, 2018,[22][23] and was released worldwide on April 5, 2019,[24] having its UK premiere on May 10, 2019.[25]

Home media[edit]

Amazing Grace will be released in the United States on DVD on August 6, 2019 by Universal Studios.[26]

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

The film on its opening weekend it grossed $57,353, averaging $19,118 per location.[27][28]The film has $4,306,785 of domestic box office gross, and international box office gross of $739,664 making it $5,046,449 worldwide.[29]The film earned $111,389 during its awards qualifying run in December.[30] In the United Kingdom it opened on May 10, 2019 by StudioCanal were it grossed £166,593 on its opening weekend across 69 cinemas.[31] It has grossed a total of £586,110 over a four-week period.[32]

Critical response[edit]

On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 99% based on 112 reviews, and an average rating of 8.75/10. 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 94 out of 100, based on 27 critics, indicating "Universal acclaim".[33]

Odie Henderson of RogerEbert.com 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."[34] 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."[35] 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]Armond White of the National Review criticized the film for being politicized and he wrote, "Is playing into the approval of white people the only way that bourgeois black people can think to confirm their significance? To reduce Franklin’s art to the propaganda of “empowerment” and activism disrespects the daily significance of the civil-rights movement and its basis in the sanctified church."[36]

Accolades[edit]

Year Award Category Result Refs.
2019 AARP Movies for Grownups Awards Best Documentary Nominated [37]
Black Reel Awards Outstanding Documentary Nominated [38]
National Society of Film Critics Awards Best Non-Fiction Film Nominated [39]
NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Documentary Won [40]

References[edit]

  1. ^ TIME Joins Aretha Franklin Concert Documentary Amazing Grace | time.com | March 6, 2019
  2. ^ "Amazing Grace (2018)". Box Office Mojo. IMDB. Archived from the original on April 14, 2019. Retrieved June 23, 2019.
  3. ^ "Amazing Grace (2018)". The Numbers. IMDB. Archived from the original on May 31, 2019. Retrieved June 23, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c Amazing Grace (2018), archived from the original on March 29, 2019, retrieved March 29, 2019
  5. ^ "Amazing Grace (#2 of 2)". www.impawards.com. Archived from the original on May 2, 2019. 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. Archived from the original on March 29, 2019. 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. Archived from the original on March 30, 2019. Retrieved March 30, 2019.
  9. ^ Petrusich, Amanda. "Aretha Franklin Is As Immortal As Can Be". The New Yorker. Archived from the original on August 16, 2018. 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. Archived from the original on March 29, 2019. 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. Archived from the original on April 8, 2019. 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. Archived from the original on May 2, 2019. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
  13. ^ Burlingame, Jon (January 8, 2010). "'Grace' film finally near". Variety. Archived from the original on October 20, 2017. 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. Archived from the original on April 3, 2019. 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. Archived from the original on May 10, 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. Archived from the original on May 27, 2019. Retrieved May 21, 2019.
  17. ^ a b "How Jeff Buchanan Edited the Aretha Franklin Doc Amazing Grace, 40 Years After It Was Shot". Muse by Clio. Retrieved June 2, 2019.
  18. ^ 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. Archived from the original on September 7, 2015. Retrieved September 7, 2015.
  19. ^ Romano, Nick (September 6, 2015). "Amazing Grace documentary pulled from Chicago Film Festival". EW.com. Archived from the original on September 8, 2015. Retrieved September 7, 2015.
  20. ^ Clark, Noelene; Robinson, Will (September 4, 2015). "Aretha Franklin blocks Amazing Grace screening at Telluride Film Festival". EW.com. Archived from the original on September 7, 2015. Retrieved September 7, 2015.
  21. ^ Ebiri, Bilge (April 5, 2019). "Aretha Franklin's Concert Doc Amazing Grace Is Transcendent". Vulture. Archived from the original on May 2, 2019. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
  22. ^ Powell, Alicia (November 13, 2018). "Aretha Franklin's 'Amazing Grace' concert film finally debuts". Reuters. Archived from the original on November 16, 2018. Retrieved November 16, 2018.
  23. ^ Morris, Wesley (November 15, 2018). "Aretha Franklin Didn't Want You to See This Movie. But You Must". The New York Times. Archived from the original on November 24, 2018. Retrieved November 24, 2018.
  24. ^ Vain, Madison (March 6, 2019). "'Amazing Grace' Trailer Shows Aretha Franklin at the Height of Her Powers". Esquire. Archived from the original on March 30, 2019. Retrieved March 30, 2019.
  25. ^ "AMAZING GRACE - Official Trailer - Aretha Franklin Concert Film". Filmoria.co.uk. Archived from the original on April 12, 2019. Retrieved April 1, 2019.
  26. ^ Amazing Grace | DVD | United States | Aretha Franklin | Universal Studios | 2018 | 89 min | Aug 06, 2019
  27. ^ Rubin, Rebecca; Rubin, Rebecca (April 7, 2019). "Box Office: 'Shazam!' Grows to $53 Million Debut". Variety. Retrieved June 13, 2019.
  28. ^ Brooks, Brian; Brooks, Brian (April 7, 2019). "'High Life' Elevates The Newcomers; 'Hotel Mumbai' Tops $6.3M – Specialty Box Office". Deadline. Retrieved June 13, 2019.
  29. ^ "Amazing Grace (2019) - Financial Information". The Numbers. Retrieved June 13, 2019.
  30. ^ Kelley, Sonaiya. "Box office: 'Shazam!' continues spring thaw with $53.5-million debut; 'Pet Sematary' lands at No. 2". latimes.com. Retrieved June 13, 2019.
  31. ^ BFI: Weekend 10th-12th May 2019 UK box office report
  32. ^ BFI: Weekend 31st May-2nd June 2019 UK box office report
  33. ^ Amazing Grace, archived from the original on April 10, 2019, retrieved March 29, 2019
  34. ^ Henderson, Odie. "Amazing Grace Movie Review & Film Summary (2018)". www.rogerebert.com. Archived from the original on March 29, 2019. Retrieved March 29, 2019.
  35. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (November 13, 2018). "DOC NYC Film Review: 'Amazing Grace'". Variety. Archived from the original on March 29, 2019. Retrieved March 29, 2019.
  36. ^ "'Amazing Grace' Misses the Religious Heart of Aretha Franklin's Music". National Review. December 11, 2018. Retrieved June 14, 2019.
  37. ^ Appelo, Tim. "2018 Movies for Grownups Awards Nominees". AARP. Archived from the original on March 29, 2019. Retrieved March 29, 2019.
  38. ^ French, Alan (December 14, 2018). "19th Annual Black Reel Awards Announces Nominations - 'Black Panther' Breaks Records • AwardsCircuit.com by Clayton Davis". AwardsCircuit.com by Clayton Davis. Archived from the original on March 29, 2019. Retrieved March 29, 2019.
  39. ^ 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. Archived from the original on March 29, 2019. Retrieved March 29, 2019.
  40. ^ Stidhum, Tonja Renée. "The 2019 NAACP Image Awards Noms Are Here. Naturally, Wakanda Is Forever Winning with Black Panther". The Grapevine. Archived from the original on March 30, 2019. Retrieved March 30, 2019.

External links[edit]