Aretha documentary has soaring music but no narration.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Amazing Grace is the long-awaited documentary film of Aretha Franklin recording her best-selling gospel album Amazing Grace in 1972. Packed full of emotion and with an intriguing backstory, it's uplifting, powerful, and historically insightful. There is no controversial content, but the lack of narration might mean it fails to hold the attention of younger viewers.
A gift that we can watch Franklin's powerful voice on full display
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What's the Story?
Filmed in 1972 but not released until 2018, AMAZING GRACE is a music documentary made up of footage of Aretha Franklin performing songs from her record-breaking album of gospel music. Recorded over two days at a Baptist church in Los Angeles, the LP Amazing Grace went double platinum, becoming her highest-selling record ever. With no narration or interviews with the participants, this is a true "fly on the wall" documentary that simply showcases Aretha's incredible voice and the power of her music.
Is It Any Good?
Aretha Franklin's star power, and the huge success of the accompanying album, make Amazing Grace instantly appealing. Add to that the astonishing filming blunder at the original recording and later controversy surrounding the finished film -- Franklin twice sued the producers to prevent it being released -- and you have the makings of a fascinating documentary. Aretha is mesmerizing from the very first note, effortlessly belting out gospel songs with sheer joy in her face. Featuring the charismatic Revered James Cleveland, the voice talents of the Southern California Community Choir, and a whole lot of joyous audience participation, Amazing Grace is endlessly uplifting.
Although some viewers might have liked a voice-over or interviews to give context -- the film is purely observational footage -- this remains a moving and powerful documentary that elicits raw emotion from its star, its cast of real-life characters, and those of us watching at home. Even the grainy footage and wobbly camera work doesn't distract. This is authentic filmmaking that gives a real sense of music history being made.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the power of music in Amazing Grace. What historical, cultural, and social significance can it have? How and why do you think music inspires such emotion in people?
Aretha's 1967 song Respect became an anthem for the civil rights and feminist movements. Talk about the ways in which her music -- and her activism -- had such an impact on 20th century history.
Amazing Grace is an unusual documentary because there is no narrator -- nor are there interviews with "talking heads." Do you think it would have more or less impact if it had been made in the traditional format?
Before her death Aretha Franklin tried to stop the release of Amazing Grace. Why do you think this was? Should her wishes have been respected?
- In theaters: May 10, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: August 6, 2019
- Cast: Aretha Franklin, James Cleveland, Alexander Hamilton
- Directors: Alan Elliott, Sydney Pollack
- Studio: StudioCanal
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: Music and Sing-Along
- Run time: 89 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
- Last updated: March 13, 2023
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