Aretha Franklin ‘Out-wrestles’ Telluride: Film Festival Abandons Attempt to Screen Singer’s “Amazing Grace” Documentary

For the past two years, organizers at the Telluride Film Festival have been battling Aretha Franklin over their desire to screen “Amazing Grace,” director Sydney Pollack’s 1972 documentary that chronicles the recording of her classic live album of the same name.

Officials with the festival now say that they have given up on trying to make it happen … for now.

“I think that Aretha out-arm wrestled me too much,” Telluride executive director Julie Huntsinger said in an interview about this year’s lineup, which, again, did not include the film.

In 2015, Franklin sued to prevent a planned public screening of the film at the fest. In a complaint against Telluride filed in U.S. District Court in Colorado, the Queen of Soul contended that the 1972 footage “was taken with the express understanding that it would not be used commercially without agreement and consent by Ms. Franklin.” Plans to exhibit the movie, Franklin’s complaint read, were in violation of that quitclaim agreement she had with the film’s producer, Alan Elliott.

Franklin went on to receive another injunction after Elliott screened the film privately to prospective buyers at the Toronto Film Festival a week later.

In 2016, Telluride was all set to finally premiere the film, but it was again pulled at the last minute, with the festival releasing a statement that read, in part:

“[Telluride] respects the decision of the court and the rights and wishes of all parties involved,” fest organizers said. “The festival will continue to reserve a space for the title in its program guide should the legal situation change and should the parties all agree that the film may be screened.”

The agreement never came, but Huntsinger and TIFF co-founder Tom Luddy remain in contact with Elliott on the matter.

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