At a hearing in a Denver federal courthouse, U.S. District Judge John Kane has granted Aretha Franklin's emergency injunction motion to stop the film Amazing Grace from premiering Friday night (Sept. 4) at the Telluride Film Festival.
The legendary singer filed papers late Thursday over a film that uses Sydney Pollack-shot footage of her 1972 concert performance at the New Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles, California. She argued that the deal she had made required her consent and that Amazing Grace was a violation of likeness and name.
Franklin needed to show a likelihood of prevailing in the lawsuit plus irreparable harm, and Kane believes she's hurdled past those legal requirements.
According to the lawsuit, 80 percent of the footage of the film is images of Franklin and her performance in connection with her best-selling 1972 album. Amazing Grace was scheduled be shown tonight at Telluride and then released at the Toronto Film Festival on Sept. 10. Court documents also reveal big plans beyond Toronto. A revenue forecast has line items for both HBO and PBS, though neither network has yet announced picking up the film for showing.
Franklin attempted to stop tonight's showing with a rare injunction bid. In doing so, she cited a decade-old decision granting an injunction in a copyright case involving video clips of Elvis Presley in a 16-hour documentary about the singer's life. In that case, a court made a First Amendment analysis and decided there was no "fair use" to the Presley estate's intellectual property.
Here, Franklin has pulled off the extraordinary feat of enjoining the distribution of the film pending further exploration of her legal claims.
Amazing Grace has a tortured history thanks to Pollack's failure to get the sound right, but oddly, Franklin has told one reporter she "loves" the movie.
Telluride is represented by Scott Thomas Rodgers and Jack Markham Tanner. Franklin is represented by N. Reid Neureiter.
This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.