The decision by the Academy Awards to withdraw the nomination of the song “Alone Yet Not Alone” ultimately will make little difference to the many people who will be touched – even comforted – by the heartfelt performance of artist Joni Eareckson Tada, and it may be rebound negatively on the Oscars themselves, according to those knowledgeable about Hollywood’s biggest annual awards night.
The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences announced on Wednesday that it was disqualifying “Alone Yet Not Alone,” a melody from a film of the same name, because the nominated writer, Bruce Broughton, “had emailed members of the branch to make them aware of his submission.”
Broughton told the Hollywood Reporter at the time that he was hurt.
“I indulged in the simplest grassroots campaign and it went against me when the song started getting attention,” he said.
George D. Escobar, who served as a producer, co-director and co-writer on the film “Alone Yet Not Alone,” said ultimately whether the song is considered for an Oscar won’t matter to most of those who will hear it.
“Joni Eareckson Tada’s performance was also heartfelt, personal, and resonant. This decision by the Academy, fraught with politics, will not take away their accomplishment and gift to untold generations,” he said. “People will be singing and be comforted by the song ‘Alone Yet Not Alone’ long after this incident. God’s love and faithfulness will continue to resound in this song,” he said.
He told WND he remains confident in Broughton.
“Bruce Broughton is a man of deep integrity, talent, and humility. He and Dennis Spiegel wrote a powerful song for ‘Alone Yet Not Alone,’ a song for the ages, and deserving of an Oscar nomination. I’m proud to be associated with this movie and for having worked with Bruce. I stand with him,” he said.
But ironically, for many media Oscar watchers including those who originally criticized the nomination of the Christian-themed project, the move by the Academy wasn’t going down well.
Commentator Scott Feinberg at Hollywood Reporter wrote while he didn’t think the song deserved the nomination above all other candidates, neither did it deserve to have the nomination rescinded.
“Broughton has been very open about the fact that he sent emails during the nominations voting period to some of his 239 fellow members of the Academy’s music branch – yes, the same branch that he represented on the Academy’s board of governors from 2003-2012 – urging them to consider nominating the song,” he wrote.
“I read one of Broughton’s emails and saw no evidence that he had ‘thrown his weight around’ … he merely offered ‘a request ‘For Your Consideration’…’,” he explained.
He pointed out that the Academy members voted for the song, on their own, and the main problem is that the Academy declined to cite which rule was broken by Broughton.
“Just about every individual and every studio with any hope of an Oscar nomination or win – including those with far deeper pockets than ‘Alone Yet Not Alone’s’ backers – campaigns for it, usually far more aggressively than did Broughton,” he said.
He cited ads, large and lavish receptions and other efforts.
“So was Broughton supposed to sit back and do nothing while his competitors were going all-out with their campaigns? That expectation strikes me as unfair,” he said.
His conclusion was that either Broughton’s outreach was innocuous, but the Academy wanted to make an example of him, or it was egregious, but the Academy didn’t want to disclose it.
“Based, though, on what I know about Broughton, and the fact that he has been very open and transparent with the press since his nomination, I would bet on the former. And, if I am right, then I am afraid that – in my humble opinion – the Academy is wrong.”
See a copy of Broughton’s email:
Similarly, the Los Angeles Times asked, “Broughton can’t help that he’s on the branch’s executive committee, and as long as he wasn’t using his status to gin up interest – and, at least in one email in question, no mention is made of his position – then what did he do wrong?”
The report also noted the faith orientation of the movie, and warned, “It may not be long before outlets with a Hollywood-skeptical bent begin making hay of the fact that the academy has never rescinded a nomination due to improper campaigning until a faith-based movie with a quadriplegic pastor came along.”
The San Francisco Chronicle called the Academy’s move “cringe-worthy.”
Rolling Stone reported of Broughton’s emails: “This kind of campaigning reportedly happens all the time around Oscar seasons, but the Academy took particular issue in this case because of Broughton’s position within the organization.”
WND reported earlier that the attitudes when the nomination was announced were different.
“I can’t figure any of this s— out,” an unnamed competitor told the Hollywood Reporter, after learning his or her song was beaten out by “Alone Yet Not Alone.”
“It is difficult to understand why ‘Alone Yet Not Alone’ snagged an Oscar nomination over more acclaimed and high-profile competitors,” THR remarked.
The Wire called the song “the year’s most WTF [what the f---] Oscar nominee,” and Ty Burr of Boston Globe penned a blog post about “Alone Yet Not Alone” titled “The Oscar nomination that stinks to heaven.”
“Its inclusion is questionable, and evidence that strides still need to be made when it comes to the Oscar song field,” reads a particularly pointed criticism from the Los Angeles Times.
NewNowNext, a division of Viacom’s LGBT channel LogoTV called it “a clunky song from an obscure Christian movie score” and blasted the movie for having an “anti-gay connection” because of endorsements from Rick Santorum and James Dobson, among others.
As WND reported, “Alone Yet Not Alone” was performed by Tada, a Christian author, singer and speaker, and written by Spiegel and Broughton, who had already received an Academy Award nomination for his score for “Silverado” and who boasts nine Emmy Awards for his musical compositions on television.
“Songs are highly subjective,” explained Escobar, who served as a producer, co-director and co-writer on the film “Alone Yet Not Alone.” “The fact that some people do not like it is perfectly reasonable and acceptable. Others absolutely love the song.
“Comparing ‘Alone Yet Not Alone’ against the popularity of other Oscar contenders is natural. But we should also compare it to the message it conveys,” he continued. “It’s the only song that is about God’s faithfulness during our times of affliction and persecution. Most of the other songs are about rebellion and self-reliance. Isn’t it nice to have some contrast in the marketplace?”
Escobar also warned critics to beware of masking another motive in criticizing the nomination of “Alone Yet Not Alone.”
“It shouldn’t matter whether this movie is a ‘Christian film’ or not. That’s equivalent to someone criticizing another movie for being a ‘black film’ or a ‘white film.’ It’s hypocritical to impose a double-standard like that,” Escobar said. “I would ask audiences and critics to give the song fair consideration for its intent within the movie and how it supports the story being told. That’s a key eligibility criteria from the Academy itself.”
Listen to the song yourself below:
"Alone Yet Not Alone" had a successful limited release in September, but won't be introduced to nationwide audiences until this summer.
The controversy undoubtedly will put a a spotlight on "Alone Yet Not Alone," yet according to Enthuse Entertainment, which made the film, it's not the first indication the movie may soon gain even more attention.
The movie's limited theatrical release, Enthuse reports, boasted one of 2013's highest grossing film-opening weekends in terms of per-screen average (combining theater ticket sales with Seatzy ticket sales), reaching $13,396 per screen.
"This per-screen average dwarfed the screen average of most other wide release movies, including 'Enough Said' (which did $9,238 per screen) and 'Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2' (which did $8,439 per screen)," Enthuse stated, "ranking 'Alone Yet Not Alone' as one of the highest per-screen average independently released faith-based films to date."
"Alone Yet Not Alone" is scheduled for nationwide release June 13, 2014.
Escobar, who also serves as WND's Vice President of Film and Television, is co-founder of the Advent Film Group and has directed several top documentaries for WND Films, including "The Isaiah 9:10 Judgment" and "The Rabbi Who Found Messiah."
As WND reported, the film "Alone Yet Not Alone" is based on the true story of a frontier family caught in the throes of the French and Indian War in 1755.
The movie is based a novel of the same name written by Tracy Leininger Craven, which tells the struggles of her ancestors in the mid-1700s when British and French forces were fighting for control of the American continent.
The Leiningers, immigrants from Germany who sought freedom to worship in the New World, began to carve out their homestead farm around Penns Creek at the outskirts of western Pennsylvania. Despite the arduous work, the Leiningers labor joyfully, nourished by God's promises, which they memorize during their daily reading of the cherished family Bible.
Then the unthinkable happens: In a terrifying raid, Delaware warriors kidnap the two young Leininger daughters, Barbara and Regina, taking them captive hundreds of miles away and adopting them into their native culture. Yet through their captivity and eventual escape, they never lose hope and "their faith becomes their freedom."
Watch the trailer of the film below: