7.5/10
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37 user 94 critic

Amazing Grace (2018)

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2:10 | Trailer
A documentary presenting Aretha Franklin with choir at the New Bethel Baptist Church in Watts, Los Angeles in January 1972.

Directors:

Alan Elliott, Sydney Pollack (uncredited)
2 wins & 13 nominations. See more awards »

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Photos

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Aretha Franklin ... Self (archive footage)
James Cleveland James Cleveland ... Self (archive footage)
Alexander Hamilton Alexander Hamilton ... Self - Choir Director (archive footage)
Cornell Dupree Cornell Dupree ... Self - Guitar (archive footage)
Kenny Luper Kenny Luper ... Self - Organ (archive footage)
Poncho Morales Poncho Morales ... Self - Percussion (archive footage)
Bernard Pretty Purdie Bernard Pretty Purdie ... Self - Drums (archive footage) (as Bernard Purdie)
Chuck Rainey Chuck Rainey ... Self - Bass (archive footage)
Christine Adams Christine Adams ... Self - The Southern California Community Choir (archive footage)
Alonzo Atkins Alonzo Atkins ... Self - The Southern California Community Choir (archive footage)
Lucy Ayers Lucy Ayers ... Self - The Southern California Community Choir (archive footage)
James A. Broomfield James A. Broomfield ... Self - The Southern California Community Choir (archive footage)
Eugene Bryant Eugene Bryant ... Self - The Southern California Community Choir (archive footage)
Syndrul Drahe Syndrul Drahe ... Themselves - The Southern California Community Choir (archive footage)
Mary Ann Hall Mary Ann Hall ... Self - The Southern California Community Choir (archive footage)
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Storyline

A documentary presenting Aretha Franklin with choir at the New Bethel Baptist Church in Watts, Los Angeles in January 1972.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The voice of a legend. The performance of a lifetime.

Genres:

Documentary | Music

Certificate:

G | See all certifications »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

20 hours of footage were shot by five 16mm-cameras on two days. See more »

Quotes

Rev. Cleveland: The next song needs no introduction. The other day in rehearsal Aretha began to sing it, and when she got to the part that says, "Through many dangers," I looked over at her and saw the tears rolling out of her eyes. 'Cause never did we think, I think, twenty years ago, that God would do great things for us.
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Crazy Credits

The film concludes with a 1972-era Warner Bros. ending card, even though WB technically no longer has any ties to the film, to suggest how it would have played out had the project been completed and released when initially intended. See more »

Soundtracks

Old Landmark
Written by Herman Lubinsky (as AM Brunner)
Performed by Aretha Franklin
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User Reviews

 
A Weak Documentary, But a Strong Musical Talent on Display
11 May 2019 | by jadepietroSee all my reviews

GRADE: C+

THIS FILM IS MILDLY RECOMMENDED.

IN BRIEF: A wonderful musical performance lost in a woefully patched-together film.

JIM'S REVIEW: In 1972, director Sydney Pollack recorded a young, gifted, and black Aretha Franklin in an intimate concert. The Queen of Soul decided to become The Queen of Gospel for her next album. Recorded over two nights at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles before a live audience, the director filmed over 20 hours for his concert film (which never saw the light due to technical issues with the film's synchronization.) However, the results from the concert performances weren't lost, as the audio tapes soon became the most successful gospel album of all time, Amazing Grace.

Today, that film footage is not lost either in the latest documentary given the same moniker. Filmmaker Alan Elliott took the archival footage and reworked the film stock by the late Mr. Pollack to allow today's moviegoing audience to experience this musical event. The result is decidedly mixed, vocally strong and inspiring, but visually lacking in quality and emotion. Technically the film has a grainy unprofessional quality and the editing by Jeff Buchanan quite pedestrian, although I imagine it must have been a arduous task. The subject is always compelling, it's the execution that is underwhelming. (The Franklin family tried unsuccessfully to prevent the film's distribution, but it remains a fascinating glimpse into this mega-star, despite the rough cut look of the documentary.)

Nevertheless, there she is. Miss Aretha in her glory, serving it up to her Lord, herself now resurrected on the big screen. The euphoria of that evening is contagious with Rev. James Cleveland as the gregarious emcee and host, Alexander Hamilton as the energetic choir master, and the Southern California Community Choir as Franklin's harmonious back-up group reacting in complete abandon. (Mike Jagger, as an audience member, certainly enjoyed himself as well.)

While the documentary is a lasting chronicle of one of the most talented musical icons, the concert itself offers little insight or depth about this legendary performer's life and persona. Ms. Franklin says very little throughout the proceedings and shares none of her inner thoughts or opinions with her audience. She sings on rote, a musical powerhouse taking centerstage, yet her personality is lost to her musical selections. The voice remains a phenomenal instrument, but the performance is stunted due to her inability to communicate between numbers. She performs nearly a dozen inspirational songs, which, grew a tad monotonous for this reviewer. Her substantial talent almost made this agnostic into a believer, but not quite.

For die-hard Aretha fans, this film is a must-see. (That's you, Wolfgang!) Others may be slightly bored by the actual concert, although the audience reaction during the performance is highly entertaining and Ms. Franklin vocal demands are met. Still, one also wishes the filmmakers dealt more directly with the concert and its aftermath. Perhaps interviews with members of that 1972 audience and their personal memories could have added more exposition to the event.

Amazing Grace gives Aretha much R-E-S-P-E-C-T in celebrating her musical talents. The documentary certainly captures the rhythm, but it misses the mark in delving into her soul.


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Details

Official Sites:

Official site

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

5 April 2019 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Amazing Grace See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$57,353, 9 December 2018

Gross USA:

$4,450,456

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$7,796,112
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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