'I got very emotional': Aretha Franklin's family talks 'Amazing Grace' film ahead of premiere

Posted at 4:14 PM, Mar 25, 2019

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Out of the vault, a never-before-seen documentary film called "Amazing Grace," featuring the late Aretha Franklin's 1972 recording of a full gospel album, now heading to theatres.

But why did the Queen of Soul keep it hidden for so long? 7 Action News Anchor Carolyn Clifford sat down with her niece and one of her sons to find out. The film was recorded i 1972 at a church in Los Angeles. Aretha was only 29 years old at the time.

"My aunt was at the pinnacle of her career," her niece, Sabrina Owens, said. "She has just had eight No. 1 hits, chart-topping hits, and she decided she wanted to go back into the church and record a gospel album."

"Even looking at her, as a young Aretha, how did it touch you?" Carolyn asked.

"It actually touched me pretty deeply, I got very emotional actually watching. I had to take a minute, it was a beautiful thing to watch," one of her sons, Kecalf Franklin, said.

Famed director Sydney Pollack was tapped to record the film. We're told he was asked by Warner Brothers to direct it.

Her dad, the legendary Rev. C.L. Franklin, was in the house, and Rev. James Cleveland was on stage. In the audience was Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones.

"When he heard that she was recording this live gospel album, he said he had to be there," Owens said.

Aretha, who died from pancreatic cancer in August of last year, would not allow the footage to be released.

"Why do you think your mom didn't want this out?" Carolyn asked.

"I don't think it was that she didn't want it out there, I think there was just some things behind the scenes that they were trying to take care of," Kecalf said.

From technical difficulties, including syncing the sound with the film, to contract negotiations, the movie was kept on the shelf.

"She was a perfectionist about her music, everything had to be right," Owens said. "She was known to have said she loved the film, it wasn't the film she had a problem with."

The film is 87 minutes long and the family says it's a rare gospel concert and a look back at history that her fans from across the world will cherish for a lifetime.

"We appreciate the love that they've shown to her and us over the last six months, and we just hope that they can appreciate what we can do to keep her legacy alive," Owens said.

Detroit will get its first look at the film on Monday night at the Detroit Institute of Arts. It will be released to a limited number of theatres on April 4 and then released widely on April 19.

We've also learned the family is negotiating with MGM right now to bring a movie about Aretha's life, starring Jennifer Hudson, to the big screen soon.