NEW YORK: Three years before, Alan Elliott was ready to reveal the holy grail of musical works at the Telluride Film Festival: a documentary about the creation of "Amazing Grace" by Aretha Franklin, who was lost in the archives until Elliott spent a decade of restoration so that it could finally be seen .
But then, through lawyers, he got the word that the queen of herself was trying to prevent the film from being shown. Elliott's business partner, Tirrell Whittley, recalls the moment as "deflating".
"It was a disappointment. You try to find out what happened," Whittley said.
But as she was identified as Elliott and Whittley, they got the documentary into the world, they decided not to fight Franklin.
"It would be a bad and bad spirit," Whittley said, adding: "When you talked to Alan, it was really around patience and he said," You know what? God may not have thought it right now. And that's fine. Let's be patient. When God says it is the right time, it will be the right time not only for us, but also for her, her family, her reference. "
That time came, three months after Franklin's death from pancreatic cancer, with the blessing of her family. And while there are parts of the "Amazing Grace" that are harsh, from a few awesome camera angles to torn editing, it's a deep, splendid display of one of the world's greatest singers who act in her guide-in the church.
"It's the most important documentary of American pop music ever shot," Elliott said. "It's completely unique to all the other experiences I've ever seen and I've seen them a lot."
The album "Amazing Grace" is one of the key albums not only in Franklin's discography, but in the canon of American pop music. Franklin, 29 years old and at the top of his glory, recorded an album at the Los Angeles Church in 1972, with a full choir and audience that included Mick Jagger over two nights. The legendary gospel star James Cleveland ruled the choir. Franklin's famous father, Rev. CL Franklin, spoke at the pulpit in the praise of his daughter, while the revered evangelist star Clara Ward sat first and foremost.
Warner Brothers Films made a deal with director Sydney Pollack, who won an Oscar to get to the film, and hopes it will be as popular as the Woodstock concert film. But Pollack made critical mistakes, including not using the machine to sync audio with visual images. With such problems, the film was denied by film studios. While the album would be double platinum and became one of the best-selling gospel albums of all time, the film was forgotten – but not everyone.
Jerry Wexler, an acclaimed producer of Atlantic Records, flying many of Franklin's greatest hits, told Elliott – his protected, 25-year-old musician – about his hopes that one day the film will screen and become Elliott's "Passion Project" for two decades.
According to Sabrina Owens, Franklin's uncle, the legend talked about her love for the film. But at the time when Elliott and Whittley were ready to release her, Franklin was not ready to see the world.
"I honestly do not know what her fears are," Owens said. "We've never played it … I know she loved the movie."
Elliott suspects that it may be a frustration when the project is misused.
"I'm sure she was upset that Warner Films could not finish the movie as she expected it to be done, and that's probably something to stay with," he said.
Elliott spoke to Franklin about the project only once – and very briefly. Elliott went to Franklin's concert and then waited behind the scenes for the queen to suppress her, and when she did, she was nervously talking about a film project that had embarked on Wexler.
"And she said," Yes, we will speak. "And she left."
He had never talked to her, but she kept in touch with her family, especially Owens, to give her information about the project. After the Telluride order, Elliott went out again and Owens explained that her aunt was sick. This revelation strengthened Elliott's attitude to be patient; he hoped Franklin would be involved in the project at some point.
"There was no place where she could be part of the movie while she's doing well," he said. "We did not know how sick she was, and we did not know how long she was sick."
Owens invited Elliott to Franklin's funeral and a few weeks later Elliott screened a film about 60 members of her family. The reaction was immediate and exhaustive, and soon afterwards the family agreed to release the film.
"It was just interesting that I saw her at this age and her voice was crystal clear, and she just sang the heart and soul out and almost every song makes you cry or feel like somebody else," said Owens. "So it was great, I loved the performance."
"Amazing Grace" does not have a distributor, but Whittley and Elliott show her in New York and Los Angeles to succeed in the Oscars season in the hope of winning a nomination for Best Documentary and receiving great praise since it was released.
"This movie brings you to church," Franklin's nephew Vaughn Franklin said. "You know I expect to see people on their feet, tears down and holding hands and laughs and jokes … the whole assortment of emotions I think will come."