BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (BP) — The movie “Alone Yet Not Alone” lost its nomination for best original song more likely because of Oscar-related politics than prejudice against a Christian message, because another nominated movie prominently includes Christian music, a film industry insider said.
The Disney animated movie “Frozen,” nominated for best original song for “Let It Go,” opens with “Vuelie,” a tune including music from the Danish Christmas hymn “Fairest Lord Jesus,” said Ted Baehr, chairman of the Christian Film & Television Commission and director of its Movieguide of family movies and entertainment.
“As soon as I saw Frozen I recognized ‘Fairest Lord Jesus’ and I said, ‘This is great, a big Disney film with Fairest Lord Jesus opening the movie,” Baehr told Baptist Press. “That song is more explicit than Alone Yet Not Alone. So I don’t know how you would explain it was a bias against Christianity if Frozen has a song with Fairest Lord Jesus in it.”
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences rescinded its Oscar nomination for Alone Yet Not Alone on Jan. 28, citing film producer Bruce Broughton, a former member of the Academy’s Board of Governors and a current member of its executive committee, for using his influence in campaigning for the film among Academy members.
Baehr said the Academy nomination process is convoluted, and that the nomination withdrawal likely came after producers of successful blockbusters questioned the inclusion of a small, largely unheard of production.
“Everybody promotes their projects…. This is the normal human condition,” Baehr said. “[The Academy] suddenly had a lot of big-name people who were saying, ‘We didn’t get nominated. How did this group get nominated?’ So this is just like getting into a sorority or fraternity, getting into a club.
“There’s cliquism involved here. Whether the cliquism had political motives or religious motives is hard to say, because there are other people in the system that were just as religious,” Baehr said. “You’ve got a double standard. Why there is a double standard you’d have to intuit for yourself.”
Christian author and speaker Joni Eareckson Tada, a quadriplegic advocate for people with disabilities, sang the song Alone Yet Not Alone in the movie by the same name, which had a limited release last year and is slated for a broader showing June 13.
Tada would not speculate regarding the Academy’s motivation but said the cancellation “in no way detracts from either the song’s beauty or its message.”
“Regarding the reasons for the nomination being rescinded, it is not my place to speculate as I have no insights into the workings of the entertainment industry,” Tada said in a press release. “I was honored to be invited to sing the song and it will always be a treasured experience.
“I was grateful for the attention the nomination brought to this worthy song and the inspirational film behind it, as well as to the ongoing work of Joni and Friends to people affected by disabilities,” Tada said. “The decision by the Academy to rescind the nomination may well bring even further attention, and I only hope it helps to further extend the message and impact of the song.”
Tada will sing the song at the 22nd annual Movieguide Faith & Values Awards, which will honor Christian entertainment achievements Feb. 7 in Los Angeles.
The Academy’s move has increased the popularity of the movie, the song and the Movieguide event, Baehr said.
“People are calling us and we’re grateful and all the major press is coming to the Movieguide Awards,” Baehr said. “The good news is [the Academy’s decision is] promoting this film. Every article you write is good for the film and Joni’s career has hit a new high.”
The family-friendly movie produced by Enthuse Entertainment is based on the true story of Barbara and Regina Leininger, sisters whose faith was tested when they were captured by the Delaware Indians during the French and Indian War in 1755. Broughton and Dennis Spiegel wrote the song.
In rescinding the song, the Academy’s Board of Governors said Broughton emailed Academy members and pointed out his song as number 57 among the list of nomination contenders.
“No matter how well-intentioned the communication, using one’s position as a former governor and current executive committee member to personally promote one’s own Oscar submission creates the appearance of an unfair advantage,” said Cheryl Boone Isaacs, Academy president, in a press release on the Academy’s website, Oscars.org. “The Board determined that Broughton’s actions were inconsistent with the Academy’s promotional regulations, which provide, among other terms, that ‘it is the Academy’s goal to ensure that the Awards competition is conducted in a fair and ethical manner.'”
Broughton has expressed devastation in response.
“I indulged in the simplest grassroots campaign and it went against me when the song started getting attention,” Broughton told The Hollywood Reporter. “I got taken down by competition that had months of promotion and advertising behind them. I simply asked people to find the song and consider it.”
In addition to Frozen, other nominees for best original song are “Happy” from “Despicable Me 2,” “The Moon Song” from “Her,” and “Ordinary Love” from “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.” The Academy Awards will be presented March 2.
Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).