TIFF: Aretha Franklin Doc 'Amazing Grace' Screening Canceled

Amazing Grace Still - H 2015
Courtesy of Amazing Grace Movie LLC

Amazing Grace Still - H 2015

Amid Aretha Franklin's legal efforts to block distribution of the documentary Amazing Grace, the Toronto Film Festival's screening of the film has been canceled, the festival confirmed Tuesday.

"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,” a festival representative told The Hollywood Reporter in a statement. It was the producers' decision to withdraw the film, added the festival.

The documentary's planned Sept. 12 screening will be replaced with Northern Soul, Elaine Constantine's drama about soul music in the U.K. in the 1970s. The Sept. 10 screening has been canceled, and the festival organizers have not confirmed what will happen during the time slot of the Sept. 20 screening. Festivalgoers can exchange tickets for the screenings for other tickets of equal or lesser value, including the use of Sept. 12 tickets for the Northern Soul screening.

The cancellation comes after the singer received an emergency injunction against the film's screening at the Telluride Film Festival over the weekend. The singer filed papers Thursday alleging the Sydney Pollack film, which was shot in 1972 but not restored until recently, improperly used her name and likeness and required her consent for distribution. In a hearing Friday, Denver federal judge John Kane granted the singer a temporary injunction (read here) blocking distribution of the film for 14 days.

In a statement following the ruling, Franklin said, "Justice, respect and what is right prevailed and one's right to own their own self-image."

"Aretha Franklin has spent over 50 years developing her art," Franklin's attorney, Fred Fresard, tells THR following the ruling. "Congress passed laws to protect artists like her. The producers needed to get her permission. So we think this was the right decision, and we are very happy with the result."

Following the Telluride cancellation, the Chicago International Film Festival pulled the film from its lineup over the weekend.

The film documents the recording of Franklin's live album Amazing Grace at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles. The album went on to be a career best-seller for the singer and the top-selling gospel album of all time, but the film never was released because of problems with the sound recording. Before Pollack's death in 2008, he expressed his wish for the film's completion, leading producer Alan Elliott to obtain the footage from Warner Bros.