The Queen of Soul has struck through the courts again to stop the showing of a film about a landmark church performance she did in 1972. Just before the debut of Amazing Grace at the Telluride Film Festival, Aretha Franklin today is seeking to halt the showing of the Sydney Pollack directed film. She also wants at least $75,000 in damages and further financial punishment to stop “deter similar future misconduct by others.” The mountain-high film festival kicks off today and runs until the 7th.
“Allowing the film to be shown violates Ms. Franklin’s contractual rights, her intellectual property rights, her rights to use and control her name and likeness, and represents an invasion of her privacy,” says the 10-page complaint filed Friday in federal court in Colorado (read it here). “It is also in direct and specific violation of the quitclaim agreement by which the footage was obtained from the Warner Brothers organization by Mr. Alan Elliott, the purported producer of Amazing Grace.” The complaint says that the quitclaim deed clearly states that any commercial use of the footage can only be used with the singer’s permission – and Aretha Franklin did not give her permission it seems.
This is actually the second time Lady Soul has sued over the 43-year old performance at the New Missionary Baptist Church in LA. In 2011, Franklin went after Elliot for his use of the footage but the two sides worked out a settlement. While her attempt to get an injunction may prove difficult for Franklin, this legal move raises the specter that she will try to stop the pic form being shown at this year’s Toronto Film Festival on September 10.
Sources up north tell me that they are aware of the Telluride complaint but haven’t heard anything of the TIFF screening being threatened – yet. They are still planning on showing Amazing Grace at the Scotiabank Theatre at 6 PM next Thursday for the first of three screenings. However, in such a litigious environment, in the days to come, that could change.
WME are the sales agent for the film at TIFF.