×

Telluride: Door Remains Open for Embattled Aretha Franklin Documentary

After two years of attempting to program Sydney Pollack’s swan song, “Amazing Grace” — a documentary culled from concert footage featuring Aretha Franklin shot in 1972 — Telluride Film Festival organizers have pulled the plug … for now.

“I think that Aretha out-arm wrestled me too much,” Telluride executive director Julie Huntsinger said in an interview about this year’s lineup, which did not include the film.

In 2015, Franklin sued to prevent a planned public screening of the film at the fest. In a complaint against Telluride filed in U.S. District Court in Colorado, the music icon contended that the 1972 footage “was taken with the express understanding that it would not be used commercially without agreement and consent by Ms. Franklin.” Plans to exhibit the movie, Franklin’s complaint read, were in violation of that quitclaim agreement she had with the film’s producer, Alan Elliott.

Franklin went on to receive another injunction after Elliott screened the film privately to prospective buyers at the Toronto Film Festival a week later.

Last year, Telluride had every intention of finally premiering the film. It was again included on schedule materials for the festival. But it was pulled at the last minute, with the festival releasing a statement that read, in part:

“[Telluride] respects the decision of the court and the rights and wishes of all parties involved,” fest organizers said. “The festival will continue to reserve a space for the title in its program guide should the legal situation change and should the parties all agree that the film may be screened.”

No agreement was ever reached, though Huntsinger and TIFF co-founder Tom Luddy remain in contact with Elliott on the matter.

“[Franklin’s] resolve for that not being shown is so intense, and I don’t think any of us really understand it all the way,” Huntsinger said of Franklin’s convictions. “I think if there was a reason that people understood better, it would be easier to wage a battle and do it. But there is just this deep-seated desire for something to not happen right now, so I’d rather just respect her wishes. I do think it’s a shame, but it is her, and it’s her life. I’ve got to respect that.”

Huntsinger was hopeful that the tide can someday change, however.

“I think it’s safe to say you will see it at some point in Telluride,” she said. “When the conditions are right, it will be one of the first things we’ll be excited to put on the program.”

More Film

  • Tiny: The Life of Erin Blackwell

    Film Review: 'TINY: The Life of Erin Blackwell'

    “Streetwise,”  the classic and haunting 1984 documentary about homeless street kids in Seattle, is a movie that’s now 35 years old. But for anyone who has seen it, the children it’s about — drifters, hustlers, squatters, thieves, prostitutes — remain frozen in time. And none of them was ever more memorable than Tiny, the 14-year-old [...]

  • Animation Studio Fire

    Revenge Motive May Have Sparked Kyoto Animation Arson Attack

    Japanese media is speculating that revenge was the motivation for the arson attack on Kyoto Animation which killed 33 people on Thursday. Investigative sources quoted by Jiji Press on Friday said that the man in custody had a grudge against the studio. “Since [the studio] stole my novel, I poured out the liquid and set [...]

  • Terminator: Dark Fate Gabriel Luna

    'Terminator: Dark Fate' Cast Proud of Latinx Representation in Latest Installment

    The stars of the Tim Miller-directed “Terminator: Dark Fate” stormed the stage of San Diego Comic-Con’s Hall H on Thursday, but it wasn’t until after the panel — which included appearances from Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton — that Natalia Reyes, Gabriel Luna and Diego Boneta reflected on what makes the upcoming installment in the [...]

  • It

    Producer Sues Warner Bros. Over 'It' Film Adaptations

    A producer who developed the original “It” TV miniseries sued Warner Bros. on Thursday, alleging the studio breached his contract by making the films “It” and “It Chapter Two” without him. Frank Konigsberg and Larry Sanitsky were running Telepictures in the early 1980s when they acquired the rights to the Stephen King novel. They developed [...]

  • Animation Studio Fire

    Kyoto Arson Attack: Animation Community Mourns Colleagues

    Thursday’s deadly attack on Japan’s Kyoto Animation studios left many in the animation community shocked and horrified by the loss of 33 of their colleagues. Another 36 people were injured in the attack, which was Japan’s deadliest ever. A suspect was arrested after pouring a flammable liquid inside the building, which caught fire and trapped [...]

  • Nicolas Cage

    Film News Roundup: Nicolas Cage's '10 Double Zero' Completes Financing

    In today’s film news roundup, financing has been secured for a Nicolas Cage police drama, feature drama “Topside” is unveiled and the late Tom Snyder is getting a tribute from his daughter. FINANCING COMPLETED DCR Finance Corp. has signed a deal to complete the financing for Nicolas Cage’s upcoming crime drama “10 Double Zero.” The [...]

  • Matt Damon and Tom McCarthy Team

    Matt Damon Teams with 'Spotlight' Director Tom McCarthy on New Film (EXCLUSIVE)

    Even as buzz grows for his upcoming race car drama “Ford v. Ferrari,” Matt Damon looks to keep the pedal to the metal: the A-lister is set to star in the Participant Media feature film “Stillwater” with Tom McCarthy directing. Damon attached himself in May, and the package was quickly acquired by Participant, who previously [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content