“Amazing Grace” opens The REACH

The 2020 One Woman One Vote Festival paid tribute to the “Queen of Soul,” Aretha Franklin, with an outdoor screening of the performance documentary Amazing Grace, the first public film presentation for the John F. Kennedy Center’s The REACH opening festival in September 2019.

The story of how the documentary finally emerged after 46 years is as amazing as the performances captured in 1972 by filmmaker Sydney Pollack during the live recording at New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Watts. The “Amazing Grace” album Franklin recorded would become one of the bestselling gospel albums of all time. However the film footage was never edited and released. Alan Elliott collected the footage and completed the film. He obtained permission from Franklin’s family to release the film in 2018 shortly after Aretha Franklin’s death.

Prior to the screening the OWOV Festival presented a conversation about Franklin’s gospel roots with Amazing Grace producer Alan Elliott, Rev. Dr. William Barber II, and gospel artist/composer Richard Smallwood. The pre-screening event was standing room only. Smallwood closed the indoor program with a gospel tribute to Aretha Franklin (whom Smallwood’s performed for) with Vision choir.

It was an inspirational and perfect night to honor Aretha Franklin, the musical artist, champion for civil rights, voting rights, and a beloved friend of the Kennedy Center.