September 5, 2015
Aretha Franklin Fights Release Of 1972 Concert Film: Singer Wins Injunction In Court

UPDATE: Aretha Franklin released a statement on Saturday about the court's decision in her favor, according to The Wrap. She said that, "Justice, respect and what is right prevailed and one's right to own their own self-image."

Aretha Franklin made a last minute move on Friday to stop screenings of a concert film featuring the singer from showing at a film festival this weekend. According to The Wrap, a Colorado judge blocked the screening of Amazing Grace at The Telluride Film Festival. There were three screenings of the film planned over the weekend, and the first was scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Friday night.

Franklin filed for an emergency injunction in court on Friday morning to prevent the screening of the film that contains footage from a 1972 concert in Los Angeles. According to NewsMax, Aretha Franklin testified in court via phone on Friday, and she made it clear to the judge that she felt her rights were violated by the film.

"For him to show that film, for him to completely and blatantly ignore me would be terrible. For him to do that would encourage other people to do the same thing and have no respect for me."
This is not the first time Franklin has been to court about this film. She sued the producer, Alan Elliot, in 2011, as well.

Attorneys for the film festival did try to fight back. They claimed in court that it is possible Franklin signed away her rights to the concert footage at an earlier date. Cecil Morris, an attorney for the film festival, said in court that, "There's a real, substantial likelihood that Ms. Franklin does not own the rights to the images in that picture. It is not appropriate at the very last instant on a Friday afternoon before a 7:30 showing to seek this remedy."

Judge John L. Kane ruled in favor of Franklin on Friday afternoon. In his ruling, he stated that, "She would suffer immediate and irreparable damage by this showing."

This ruling forced the film festival to cancel the planned Friday night showing. Shannon Mitchell, VP of Public Relations for the festival, released a statement about the move.

"A Colorado judge has granted the injunction to block the screening of 'Amazing Grace' at Telluride Film Festival. We will be showing 'Sherpa' in its place tonight at the Chuck Jones Theatre at 7:30."
There are three screenings scheduled at the Toronto International Film Festival, as well. Franklin and her attorneys are now deciding how to proceed with those screenings. Franklin could return to court to stop those planned screenings later this week.

Variety first reported on the concert film in 2010. The footage was shot by Sydney Pollack in 1972. The film resurfaced two years after his 2008 death. The news outlet reported on the film and Pollack's wish to see it finished and released to the public.

"More than 20 hours of 16mm footage — vaulted away for 38 years — are now being edited into a concert film that Warner Bros. once envisioned (curiously, in retrospect) as part of a double bill with 'Superfly.'

'I always wanted to finish that,' Pollack said, according to Elliott, who had several conversations with the filmmaker in the year before his May 2008 death. 'We're working off Sydney's notes,' says Elliott, who acquired the project from Warner Bros. at Pollack's urging and hired Pollack's longtime editor William Steinkamp ('Out of Africa') to help shape it into a film for possible theatrical distribution. Glimpses of the footage show an artist at her zenith as a performer, while also returning to her beloved roots in gospel music."

As it stands right now, a screening at TIFF scheduled for Thursday is still planned. A screening at the Toronto film festival could lead to a distribution deal. A trailer for the film has been released.

As for Franklin, she has been keeping busy in recent months. She has been touring, and she has been considering other projects. Billboard reported last month that Franklin is considering bringing her life story to the Broadway stage.

"I would like to see it be a dramatic musical. I loved The Motown Musical; it was so great. I think the timing is very good now, especially behind Jersey Boys, Carole King [Beautiful]. Gloria Estefan has come to Broadway now [On Your Feet] and why not Aretha?"
Franklin has also considered a biopic of her life, as well. The Wrap reported that Jennifer Hudson is in talks to take on the role of Franklin in the film.

What do you think of Franklin stopping the screening of Amazing Grace this weekend? Would you want to see this film for yourself?

[Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images]