You would normally think that a documentary about an entertainer would be welcomed by the performer whom is the subject of the piece. Typically, documentaries about famous people are done with the knowledge and consent of the person that the film is based on, and usually that comes with their blessing. It’s not the case for Aretha Franklin and the film Amazing Grace, which she had removed from the Telluride Film Festival.
Pulled just hours before it was set to debut at Telluride festival, Amazing Grace was blocked by a judge in Colorado after a series of legal challenges. The film is a recording of Franklin’s performance in the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church, a recording that would eventually become the album that put Franklin on the map, making her one of the greatest singers of all time.
Directed by the late Sydney Pollack, the film had been left to Alan Elliott following the Pollack’s death in 2008 to finish. However, Aretha Franklin has been pursuing legal challenges since that time claiming that no one has the right to alter video shot in 1968 which had a different purpose at the time. The singer took Elliott to court with the settlement being that Elliott couldn’t use any of the footage without Franklin’s permission. However, Elliott found later that according to Warner Bros (the record company under contract with Franklin) that she apparently never had proper claim for use of the material in the first place.
The Denver Post is cited with the ruling:
“Tenth-district federal court Judge John L. Kane cited copyright law and a 1968 recording contract with Warner Bros. in deciding that the screenings would harm Franklin’s likeness and ability to control her image.”
The showing of the documentary remains in legal no man’s land with both sides unrelenting in their stance.