Three months after her death and 46 years after she first recorded it, Aretha Franklin’s live gospel concert is coming to the big screen.
“Amazing Grace,” filmed in 1972 when the Queen of Soul was just 29 years old, follows Franklin over two nights giving a concert at the New Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles.
Her entire demeanor changed. she was very humbled. She was very submissive to me, to the crowd. She was there to serve. She was there to sing. So you didn’t see a lot of moving around.
“I found out about it about three years ago. Alan (Elliott) called me out of the blue and he told me about the film I had never even heard about it and he sent me the link and I was like oh wow this is really good,” said Sabrina Owens, Aretha Franklin’s niece, producer and executor of estate.
Belting out gospel songs like “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” “Climbing Higher Mountains” and an 11-minute version of “Amazing Grace,” Franklin brought churchgoers and guests to their feet.
But Franklin herself stands still, saying little in the 90-minute film.
“It’s a church service. It’s basically just our Aunt standing there singing,” Sabrina Owens, Franklin’s niece and executor of her estate, told Reuters.
Owens said,“she doesn’t have much conversation with anybody beyond some of the technical crews that’s around her. At some point she asked about a key and other point she asked about water, but she’s just basically standing there singing, giving her all, doing what she does best.”
The service was released as an album in 1972, becoming a best-seller for Franklin. But the film languished for years over problems with synchronizing the visuals and the audio. But all issues have been fixed.
“Amazing Grace” got its world premiere in New York on Monday November 13. It won warm reviews and will get a limited release in the city and in Los Angeles later in November, making it eligible for Hollywood’s awards season.
Britain’s Guardian newspaper said the film is “a spine-tingling sensation” while the Hollywood Reporter called it “somewhat shapeless as a movie… But it does contain moments of bliss.”