Monday Memo: Aretha Sues AMAZING GRACE Out Of Telluride Premiere, TIFF Screenings Still On

Out of what appears to be strictly a matter of greed, soul singing legend Aretha Franklin has filed suit and successfully received an emergency court injunction barring the Telluride Film Festival from world premiering Sydney Pollack’s long gestating posthumous documentary AMAZING GRACE, “which shows the making of Ms. Franklin’s album of the same name more than four decades ago,” reports Brooks Barnes and Michael Cieply of The New York Times. Reacting to the news Franklin issued a statement saying, “Justice, respect and what is right prevailed and one’s right to own their own self-image,” despite “a recently discovered 1968 contract that Franklin signed allowed the use of the footage,” according to The New York TimesCatherine Shoard of The Guardian covered the story as well, noting “that four years ago Franklin sued Elliott over the same issue, and ‘the lawsuit was resolved after Elliott agreed not to release the film’.” Steven Zeitchik and Rebecca Keegan of The Los Angeles Times and Tambay A. Obenson of indieWIRE also covered the news, while Chris Willman featured the film in question for The Hollywood Reporter. Looking to the Toronto Film Festival where the film is set to screen later this week, our own Thom Powers has assured the show will go on, stating, “We’re proceeding with plans to screen AMAZING GRACE at TIFF. We haven’t heard of any legal procedures regarding the film in Toronto.”

Before all this legal hub-bub went down, at What (not) To Doc Basil Tsiokos gave an overview of the non-fiction offerings screening at both Telluride and Venice, which kicked off last Wednesday. Coverage from Venice has been slowly coming in, including Kaleem Aftab‘s positive review of Rinku Kalsy’s FOR THE LOVE OF MAN for indieWIRE, Guy Lodge‘s glowing review of Amy Berg’s JANIS: LITTLE GIRL BLUE at Variety, and a pair of supportive reviews of Evgeny Afineevsky’s WINTER ON FIRE: UKRAINE’S FIGHT FOR FREEDOM from The Hollywood Reporter’s Stephen Farber and Variety’s Jay Weissberg. Weissberg also reviewed Frederick Wiseman’s latest, IN JACKSON HEIGHTS, while Manori Ravindran spoke with the institution-obsessed documentarian Realscreen about his first (and likely last) foray into crowdfunding and why he prefers long-form to television friendly films.

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Monday Memo: Sundance Doc Awards Go To Rich Hill, Homs

RICH HILL from directors Tracy Droz Tragos and Andrew Droz Palermo took home the grand jury prize for a U.S. film at Sundance this year.

The Sundance Film Festival awards were handed out Jan. 25, with Adam Benzine of Realscreen reporting that the film RICH HILL from directors Tracy Droz Tragos and Andrew Droz Palermo took home the Grand Jury Prize for U.S. Documentary, and Talal Derki won the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize for RETURN TO HOMS. Sean P. Means of the Salt Lake Tribune had more coverage of all the award winners. Eric Eidelstein of Indiewire had an interview with RICH HILL cinematographer Andrew Droz Palermo. And Manori Ravindran reported on the short doc films that won awards at Sundance.

In Sundance Distro news, Realscreen’s Adam Benzine reported that RADiUS-TWC had picked up FED UP from filmmaker Stephanie Soechtig. Benzine also had the news that Pivot and Univision had bought U.S. television rights to the Cesar Chavez doc CESAR’S LAST FAST from filmmakers Richard Ray Perez and Lorena Parlee. Colleague Kevin Ritchie reported that BBC Storyville had nabbed U.K. television rights for WEB JUNKIE from filmmakers Shosh Shlam and Hilla Medalia. Ritchie also reported that Dogwoof had grabbed international rights for DINOSAUR 13. And writing for the Los Angeles Times, Daniel Miller broke down the behind-the-scenes moves that led to DINOSAUR 13’s U.S. acquisition by Lionsgate and CNN Films.

Writing for POV, Tom Roston shared his five major takeaways from Sundance. And in his Docutopia post at SundanceNOW, Anthony Kaufman looked at five Sundance docs dealing with the legacy of colonialism and the exploitation of the developing world. At Deadline, Dominic Patton reported that the Open Society Foundations had given a $5 million grant to Sundance to help fund docs. At, Daniel Walber interviewed CONCERNING VIOLENCE director Goran Hugo Olsson. Writing for Realscreen, Manori Ravindran took a look at some of the Sundance docs focused on the Arab Spring. Colleague Kelly Anderson spoke to Stanley Nelson on his film FREEDOM SUMMER.

This week Stranger Than Fiction is hosting a screening of FINDING THE FUNK, a road trip in search of the past, present and future of funk music from director Nelson George. The film will be screened at the IFC Center in Manhattan on Tuesday, January 28 at 8pm, and will be followed by a Q&A with George and special guests. For more information or to purchase tickets please go here. Don’t forget that a season pass granting admission for nine films and free popcorn can be bought for $99.

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