On Friday – the day of its screening – Franklin filed a complaint against Telluride claiming that the footage “was taken with the express understanding that it would not be used commercially without agreement and consent by Ms Franklin”.
US District Judge John Kane, who serves in Colorado, imposed a temporary restraining order on the movie, meaning that its producers are blocked from showing it for a fortnight. A court spokesperson said there would then be another hearing as the litigation proceeds.
Earlier in the day, Telluride’s executive director, Julie Huntsinger, told press that the screening would proceed as planned. “[Franklin’s] lawyers are trying to stop us from showing the film,” she said. “Let’s just hope the paperwork that is filed has us covered. But [Franklin] should be proud.”
Joe Boyd, one of the movie’s producers, told the Detroit Free-Press on Thursday: “We are operating under the existing contract between Aretha Franklin and Warner Bros, which has governed the use of footage from this session in the past.”
The film, which uses footage from a 1972 concert by Franklin and was originally part of an unfinished film by the late Sydney Pollack, is also scheduled to show in six days time at the Toronto film festivals. Its documentary programmer, Thom Powers, told Deadline that they were still intending to screen and said they “haven’t heard of any legal procedures regarding the film in Toronto”.
Franklin’s complaint says that “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. It is also in direct and specific violation of the quitclaim agreement by which the footage was obtained from the Warner Brothers organisation by Mr. Alan Elliott, the purported producer of Amazing Grace.”
It goes on to note that four years ago Franklin sued Elliott over the same issue, and “the lawsuit was resolved after Elliott agreed not to release the film”.
The singer is also seeking at least $75,000 in damages, as well as further financial penalties to “deter similar future misconduct by others”.
This article was written by Catherine Shoard, for theguardian.com on Saturday 5th September 2015 00.28 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010