Danny Glover, Bobby Brown Celebrate Aretha Franklin at Documentary 'Amazing Grace' Premiere

Berlin - Amazing Grace Aretha Franklin Documentary -Publicity- H 2019
Courtesy of Berlin International Film Festival

Six months after Aretha Franklin's death, never-before-seen footage is giving fans a deeper look at one of the Queen of Soul's biggest albums.

Six months after Aretha Franklin's death, never-before-seen footage is giving fans a deeper look at one of the Queen of Soul's biggest albums. 

Amazing Grace, a 90-minute documentary that goes inside the recording of Franklin's 1972 album of the same name, premiered at the Pan African Film and Arts Festival on Thursday night, kicking off 12 days of films at the DGA Theatre in Los Angeles.

Franklin recorded "Amazing Grace" at The New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Watts, and the live album would go on to become the top-selling gospel record of all time. The performance was not only recorded for audio, but captured on video by Sydney Pollack — technical issues and conflicts over rights have previously kept the footage from view. 

Producer Tirrell D. Whittley calls the documentary "a historical document for the ages" and says it shows a different side of Franklin, who died in August at age 76. 

"This is different, this is Aretha at 29 years old —1972 — so really this is an Aretha that people don't know," Whittley told The Hollywood Reporter on the red carpet. "Most of us know 'Respect,' we know 'Blues Brothers,' we know 'A Rose Is Still A Rose,' we know the Queen of Soul. This is the becoming and she stepped into her greatness and she was at the peak of her power in 1972. So I think this Aretha is a little bit different than the Aretha most of us have gone to see and know." 

Danny Glover, who co-founded PAFF 27 years ago, said it was only fitting for Franklin to open this year's festival. 

"I couldn't imagine any other place for the Queen as presented in all her glory, and her special-ness as well," the actor said. Before the screening, he added to the significance, saying, "Even though we focus on Amazing Grace, focus on the amazing contributions of love of our sister Aretha Franklin, we also focus on women, other women artists who live their talent and live their gift. Whether Maya Angelou or we think about Nina Simone or we think about so many who have given to our life source in their love, in their generosity, in their vision of a better world." 

Glover co-founded PAFF with Ayuko Babu after a lifelong love of international films, and this year it will screen 190 black films from 38 countries in Los Angeles. "This is what this is about, institutionalizing who we are" as the black community, Glover noted.  

Some of Franklin's close ones were in attendance at the premiere, including Bobby Brown, who remembered how she was "a really good friend. I just remember times with her, she loved to laugh so it was just special times when I was around her." Nate Parker, Loni Love and Cloris Leachman were also in attendance.

The documentary, Amazing Grace which was acquired by Neon in December, will be released in theaters in early 2019.