Sydney Pollack’s Aretha Franklin Documentary Can’t Catch a Break


Sydney Pollack’s documentary about Aretha Franklin — which was due to premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival — has had its screening blocked by Franklin’s lawyers. Pollack began working on the project, now titled Amazing Grace, before he died in 2008. The project has since been completed by producer Alan Elliott.

Franklin’s lawyers claim the singer only gave Pollack permission to film her on the condition that nothing would be released for commercial gain without her consent. The TIFF screening ban comes a week after Franklin’s lawyers also got a scheduled screening at the Telluride Film Festival cancelled. Franklin’s attorney, Jon D. Cantor, said that a screening set for the Chicago Film Festival in October has also been cancelled. It appears that the chances of seeing this film anytime soon are very slim indeed.

The full statement issued by TIFF reads:

We are extremely disappointed that Toronto audiences will not be able to see this extraordinary piece of art. The footage in the film is truly a cinematic treasure of 20th century music and we hope global audiences will have opportunity to experience this film once a resolution is found.

It doesn’t help quell disappointment that the festival referred to the thing-you-won’t-see as an “extraordinary piece of art.” It also begs the question of how a film gets this far — days from premiering at a major festival — without this issue rearing its head earlier.