Sydney Pollack's film on the singer's Amazing Grace album was to have played at Toronto, Telluride
For more than 40 years fans have been waiting to catch a glimpse of footage from Sydney Pollack's documentary on Aretha Franklin. The wait continues.
Franklin successfully filed suit to prevent Amazing Grace from premiering at the Telluride Film Festival last week. It has now been yanked from the Toronto International Film Festival, where it was to have debuted on Thursday.
We are extremely disappointed that Toronto audiences will not be able to see this extraordinary piece of art.
Pollack, who died in 2008, began his project on Franklin in 1972, filming a pair of legendary gospel concerts she gave in Los Angeles. Those concerts became the basis for her hit gospel album, Amazing Grace.
Producer Alan Elliott obtained the footage from Warner Bros. in a quitclaim deed and proceeded to finish the film. But Franklin's legal team argued before a federal judge in Colorado that Elliott needed the singer's permission to release the film.
Audio synching issues reportedly kept Pollack from completing the documentary as planned.
"The footage wound up shelved in a vault and... remained one of the lost cinematic treasures of twentieth-century music," the Toronto International Film Festival said in touting the film, before the legal dispute erupted.
US District Court Judge John Kane sided with Franklin, issuing a temporary injunction to prevent the documentary from being screened at Telluride. [Read his ruling here]. The injunction expires on Sept. 18, but the judge noted Franklin was likely to prevail if the matter is further contested in the courts.
A screening reportedly set for the Chicago Film Festival in October has also been cancelled.
Nonfictionfilm.com has reached out to Aretha Franklin directly for comment. We will update this space with future developments.
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.