“RESPECT”, a film about legendary performer Aretha Franklin premiered in Los Angeles. Producers dedicated the film to Aretha Franklin. Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker, and Marlon Wayans star in the film which will release August 13, 2021. Audra McDonald, Marc Maron, Tituss Burgess, Saycon Sengbloh, Hailey Kilgore, Tate Donovan, Heather Headley, Skye Dakota Turner, and Mary J. Blige also star in the feature. Liesl Tommy directed.
Following the rise of Aretha Franklin’s career from a child singing in her father’s church’s choir to her international superstardom, RESPECT is the remarkable true story of the music icon’s journey to find her voice.
Jennifer Hudson shared some insight on her role as Aretha Franklin.
Director Liesl Tommy said this about the film:
Aside from Jennifer Hudson, there isn’t a bigger fan of Aretha Franklin than me. So when I was first asked for my take on this film, I knew immediately that I wanted it to focus on a specific, formative time period of Ms. Franklin’s life which contained things the general public doesn’t know about her. She had to go on a journey to become the brilliant musician that we know. To me, that journey felt like the most profound investigation of her legacy. From the beginning, I saw this film as a story about a young woman with the greatest voice in the world, who was fighting to find her own voice.
Aretha Franklin loved Black people. I love Black people. I wanted to make sure that Black people would feel loved by this film in the way that we shot them; we tried to give them time and space to live their lives, to breathe, and to unfold. We’ve seen white men tell us who we are for so long, and this was our opportunity to say who we are. That authenticity is in every frame of this film.
Additionally, I felt strongly about showing a meaningful experience of a young Black girl’s childhood, and Tracey Scott Wilson was right there with me. We don’t have enough films out there about Black people who are wealthy and successful. Ms. Franklin came from wealth, and her family dynamic resonates throughout the film.
As a little girl myself who grew up listening to people talk around the dinner table about fighting for freedom for themselves and for future generations, I know firsthand that it affects your life forever. It’s who you are. Aretha understood that, and it’s what made her art, activism. When you talk about the Queen of Soul, her church was her activism.
When I started listening to Aretha Franklin as a young girl, I was always taken with the emotion she sang with, and the idea of feeling things that deeply. Millions of people have a beautiful voice, but she channeled her emotions into her music in a way that no one else could. At the time, I didn’t know that was a part of who she was and her history of protest music.
One privilege of making art is to heal people. Metaphorically, all of my art leads back to my childhood growing up in the midst of apartheid in South Africa. All of my art is political. I was able to heal myself through my art, and one intention behind this film was to show that Ms. Franklin was able to heal herself through her art. It was essential to me that people feel the depth of who she was as a person. Whenever Jennifer and I would talk about her, that’s what always resonated for both of us: the complexity and depth of who she was. That’s who we wanted to bring to the screen.Cited: MGM Production Notes, July 2021
Kevin Ulrich, MGM Board Chairman, Pamela Abdy, Motion Picture Group President, MGM, and Michael De Luca, Motion Picture Group Chairman also attended the star studded premiere with bright smiles.