A Little Devil in America: In Praise of Black Performance by Hanif Abdurraqib:
It took Elliott two years to synchronize the film, and he had designs to release it in 2011, but Aretha, by that point in her late sixties, did not want the film released unless she was guaranteed proper compensation. When Elliott attempted to screen the film at festivals, she sued repeatedly. (Aretha wanted a large share of the profits that the film was slated to gain, and that seems fair: she was the basis for whatever success the film might have and therefore had a legitimate stake in trying to control how it appeared and got distributed.) After a final lawsuit in 2016 kept the film shelved, Aretha said: “Justice, respect, and what is right prevailed, and one’s right to own their own self-image.”
After Aretha died in 2018, Elliott was summoned to Detroit by a friend of Aretha’s surviving family members. He was asked to show her family the film, which none of them had ever seen. And just like that, the clouds that had obscured this magic for forty-six years slowly began to break.
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