The blame was on the clappers, really that there were not. Blame for the inexperience in a shooting of a concert of Sydney Pollack, that he did not use clappers - probably not to disturb Aretha Franklin- and never managed to synchronize the images with the sound. For decades, the filming was stored in boxes, without Pollack knowing very well what to do with those films impossible to assemble. Only the stubbornness of Alan Elliott, who gave Pollack the material before dying in 2008 of pancreatic cancer, and the death of the soul queen, who always banned the premiere of the film ("I did not feel like talking to me about the project ", says Elliott), have managed to bring to light Amazing Grace, the testimony of the two days of January 1972 when Franklin locked himself in a church in Los Angeles and recorded one of his most famous albums, in which he returned to the gospel - and also live with the public - after devastating soul.
In Berlin, where he has screened in the official section out of competition, with Ellliott, who appears in the titles of credit as producer and director, although not as a director - Pollack's family does not want his name to appear, he was in the press conference Joe Boyd, music producer, the man who was there during the disaster, and who explained clearly what happened: "Warner and Atlantic reached an agreement, Aretha had two contracts, as a musical artist and as a film star, because in I was hired to find the equipment, gather a band, look for the South East California Community Chorus ... A few days before they call me from Warner and they tell me that the filming, which was going to accompany the publicity live album release, I would not do it but Sydney Pollack, who obviously had more name than me and was a fan of the artist, but who did not know how complicated it is to film music, and that's why he timed. " On the screen, Pollack is sometimes seen clueless, giving meaningless orders to the five cameras, which sometimes move without criteria. "After the first night the editor called me"; recalls Boyd, "and he told me that the material was not worth anything because Sydney did not know how to direct that material, Pollack was very kind, he got very involved and it hurt him that the project failed".
What you see now in the 87 minutes of Amazing Grace It is simply exciting. He goes to his father, the Reverend C. L. Franklin, who dedicates some proud words to his daughter and his music. A member of the choir begins to mourn while they accompany her in the song that baptizes the documentary, 11 vibrant minutes that end with more musicians and audience in tears. In the background, they glimpse Mick jagger and to Charlie Watts. Franklin renounces to interpret his great successes and sings gospel songs, the music of his roots, of his childhood. Elliott tells: "Fame is nowadays a different beast, and the idea that the most famous woman of the moment was locked up in a church for two days, without companions, representatives or managers, without hiding behind sunglasses, just to sing. Today we would not see that. Today it seems impossible to me. "
For Elliot, Amazing Grace it's more than just a recording of a concert. "It's a film about mortality, I think Aretha would have liked it, because we even ended up like she did, with the first song she recorded in her life." And about his relationship with Pollack, and the problems that drowned the film for decades, he explained: "He called me, he passed me the material, and we always talked in an abstract way about his predicaments. I left that treasure in my hands, and a month later he died. "
But it remains Amazing Grace There is much more material, such as interviews with attendees, such as Jagger, although it is unserviceable. It does not matter, only with the seen, with the energy and emotion, with the moments of musical ecstasy in which the screen manages to catch that intangible something, the wait has been worth it.