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Controversy erupts as musical score for Christian movie nominated for an Oscar

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The Academy Awards has nominated the lead song of a Christian film for an Oscar as Best Original Score.

The song, Alone Yet Not Alone, from the movie by the same name received the nomination over such heavy-weight pop stars as Taylor Swift and Jay-Z who wrote songs for movies last year.

The film is based on a novel by Tracy Leininger Craven who researched and wrote the story about her ancestors. It is the true account of the Leininger family in 1700’s Pennsylvania. A Christian family, their faith was tested when Delaware warriors captured their two daughters, Regina and Barbara, in 1755 during the French Indian war.

The Indians adopted the girls and took them to their camp 300 miles away. During their capture, the two girls believed God would help them return to their family.

Then came the critics

The nomination has earned the ire of some associated with songs that didn’t receive a nomination. In an interview with Hollywood Reporter (THR), one unnamed source said many people are wondering why they were snubbed by “a song that has been heard by virtually no one outside the branch from a film that hardly anyone has seen.”

Film Critic Peter Chattaway said, “Perhaps the most surprising Oscar nomination announced this morning was for an independent Christian film called Alone Yet Not Alone, which was nominated for its title song, sung by Joni Eareckson Tada.”

Others have also jumped in with their opinions:

  • The Wire described the song as “the year’s most WTF Oscar nominee.”
  • A Boston Globe blog wrote, “The Oscar nomination that stinks to heaven.”
  • Spin asks, “What the Hell Is ‘Alone Yet Not Alone’ and How Is It Up for a Best Song Oscar?”
  • Hitfix wrote, “There were audible gasps and chuckles when Cheryl Boone Isaacs began reading the list of nominees in the category, and first off the bat was ‘Alone Yet Not Alone’ from, er, ‘Alone Yet Not Alone.’
  • NewNowNext opposed its nomination, because of the movie’s Christian theme and its endorsement by “anti-gay” Christians such as James Dobson and the Family Research Council. Note, you can disagree with the lifestyle, but still love the person.

The song’s pedigree

But despite its obscurity, the song comes with a pedigree. The writers included music composer Bruce Broughton, who received a previous Academy nomination for a song he wrote for Silverado. He also won nine Emmy Awards for music he wrote for TV.

Dennis Spiegel (lyrics) also wrote the words for Warriors of Virtue (1997) and the Billy Graham film The Prodigal (1983).

There are concerns some of the opposition has nothing to do with song’s quality, but rather an anti-Christian sentiment festering among the Hollywood élite.

In an interview with World Net Daily, the film’s producer George D. Escobar said the song’s Christian roots should not play into this at all. The song should win or lose on its own merit.

And in fact, those who have actually heard the song are being swayed. A poll on THR has the song leading the nomination for this years Academy Awards. It now sits at 77% with Let it go from Frozen a distant second at 14%

The singer —  Joni Eareckson Tada

The singer is Joni Eareckson Tada, a Christian speaker and author. She is a quadriplegic due to a diving accident as a teenager. She gained recognition in her 2o’s for remarkable paintings she composed using her mouth to hold the brush.

Since then, she has expanded her ministry to include writing, speaking and singing. She runs a ministry Joni and Friends dedicated to helping children around the world with disabilities.

Despite her lack of musical training, Joni does an incredible job with the song. Paul Bond for the The Hollywood Reporter writes:

“Eareckson Tada is a 64-year-old quadriplegic who runs a charitable organization that distributes wheelchairs to kids in developing nations. She’s a devout Christian who has little to do with the entertainment industry and rarely goes to the movies. She grew up singing hymns but has no professional training. And her lung capacity is just 51 percent of what it ought to be – so weak, in fact, that her husband needed to push on her diaphragm while she recorded the Oscar-nominated song to give her enough breath to hit the high notes.”

In the past, the Oscars have invited the singers to the Awards to perform the nominated songs. However, even if invited, Joni is not sure she will attend as she would be unable to sing the song at her best during a live event.

Though the movie had limited release in September, showing in only a handful of cities, it nevertheless had one of the largest per screen revenues at $13,396 per showing of any movie last year. The release was long enough to qualify for an Oscar and the movie will have a full release in the Summer of 2014.

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5 Comments

  1. Linda Wilson says:

    Beautiful! I hope she does perform it, would be powerful!

    • Dean Smith says:

      Yeah it would be interesting. Her husband actually had to push on Joni’s diaphragm to give her enough air to hit the high notes.I not sure how well that would work in a live performance.

  2. […] Dean Smith on Controversy erupts as musical score for Christian movie nominated for an Oscar […]

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