Almost everyone I meet knows this song: it is so iconic that it is sung in churches and worships all over the world. Written and sung by Aretha Franklin, her performance of ‘Amazing Grace’ in 1972 was described as electrifying. NPR describes this film as “nothing short of a revelation, soaring from one chill-inducing moment to another”. Many were left in tears from her dedication and concentration on the spirit of gospel music.
The documentary portrays a side of Franklin that is different to the women we’ve seen at pop concerts. Her head was thrown back, her eyes closed, hands held high and her focus on something higher. She felt something spiritual through her performance and her audience felt it too. So it’s no surprise that she was named the Queen of Soul.
Franklin was supported by a 30-member choir group named the Southern California Community Choir who played a huge role in ensuring that she dived into her performance for Amazing Grace.
Many significant individuals were blown away by her performances: Clara Ward, a gospel star, Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts were all whipped up in her ecstatic devotion of performance. Each of Franklin’s pieces lasted seven to 11 minutes, all elaborated and decorated with cries and whoops.
“They were all something human and extremely unique at their core. It is Aretha,” (Alan Elliott).
This documentary was filmed over two nights of live recording at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Watts, captured by up-and-coming director Sydney Pollack on 16mm cameras.
The task of piecing the film together was given to Alan Elliott; an extremely daunting task in his opinion, as the pieces given to him by Pollack were unsynchronised with no connections between the sounds of the music and the images.
It was amazing how Elliott still managed to piece the documentary together, making it flow from one scene to another.
This is a worthwhile documentary to watch and it is extremely difficult to explain it in words. However, many audiences were left in tears and I was not to be excluded. ‘Amazing Grace’ provides a different perspective on religion and gospel music, and of course, Aretha Franklin––the Queen of Soul.
Amazing Grace is in Australian cinemas from Thursday 29 August.