For Aretha Franklin fans across the world, the upcoming theatrical release of “Amazing Grace” is the year’s most important movie event. The concert documentary spent years being held up for legal reasons but is finally being rolled out in theaters next month following an awards-qualifying release in December.
“Amazing Grace” documents the making of Franklin’s gospel album of the same name, which she recorded live at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles during January 1972. The critically acclaimed album has sold over two million copies in the United States alone, making it the biggest seller of Franklin’s entire career and the best-selling gospel album in music history.
In his B+ review published last fall, IndieWire’s Eric Kohn hailed “Amazing Grace” as a “rousing portrait” of the soul singer. “As a record of the church music from Franklin’s youth, cascading off the walls of the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles, ‘Amazing Grace’ is soulful ear candy,” he wrote. “But Franklin’s sweaty, impassioned delivery, which galvanizes her audiences with an electric charge, extends her awe-inspiring musical convictions beyond religious euphoria.”
While Sydney Pollack handled the direction of filming the 1972 concert, “Amazing Grace” is officially being presented by producer Alan Elliott: Pollack died in 2008. Elliott and his producer Tirrell Whittley screened the film for Franklin’s family after the singer’s death last year. As Elliott told IndieWire at the time, “The family loved it. They laughed and cried and sang. It was an emotional time.” Based on their affection for the film, Franklin’s family and Elliott closed a deal to get the film into a release.
Neon will release “Amazing Grace” in select New York and Los Angeles theaters on April 5. The documentary will expand in the following weeks.