Many Christians could be in for a huge surprise at this year’s 86th Academy Awards in Hollywood, as there is the possibility that Joni Eareckson Tada, a quadriplegic whose life story was turned into a Billy Graham movie back in 1979, could be singing on stage at the Oscar ceremony, reports Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST Ministries.
Film critic, Peter T. Chattaway, writing on the website, www.patheos.com, says, “Perhaps the most surprising Oscar nomination announced this morning was for an obscure independent Christian film called Alone Yet Not Alone, which was nominated for its title song, sung in the film by Joni Eareckson Tada.
“One of the reasons most people hadn’t heard of the film, which is set during the Seven Years’ War (or the French & Indian War, as it is known in the United States), is that it hasn’t actually had a proper release yet. According to Deadline, the film did have a week-long Oscar-qualifying run back in September, but according to the film’s website, it won’t actually play in most theatres until sometime in June!”
So how did the film get the attention of the Academy’s music branch?
“Well, for one thing, the theme song’s music was written by Bruce Broughton, a former head of the music branch who was previously nominated for an Oscar for the score he wrote for Silverado (1985). According to Deadline, Broughton hired a publicist to promote the song and even made some phone calls to his colleagues personally,” said Chattaway.
“Also, the film’s score was written by William Ross, who has served as the musical director for the Academy Awards on several occasions and will apparently do so again this year — so that suggests another set of connections behind the scenes.
“The lyrics to the song, incidentally, were written by Dennis Spiegel, whose credits as a songwriter for film include everything from Blame It on Rio (1984) and Warriors of Virtue (1997) to the Billy Graham film The Prodigal (1983).
“So, on March 2, will we see Joni — a quadriplegic whose life story was turned into one of the best Billy Graham movies ever back in 1979 — singing on stage at the Oscar ceremony? That could certainly be interesting.”
According to a story by Paul Bond in The Hollywood Reporter, “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.”
Joni was reported as telling The Hollywood Reporter, “I’m the least likely candidate to record a song for a movie. I’ll tell you that up front, so it’s amazing. It’s amazing enough that a family friendly movie with a Christian theme is nominated in any category for an Academy Award. Besides The Blind Side, which was wonderful, it’s just not the norm.”
The story goes on to say, “The Academy hasn’t said whether it intends on inviting singers of nominated songs to perform during the March 2 telecast, as it has in the past, but even if it does she may turn them down for fear her physical condition would keep her from performing at her best.
“As the singer, Eareckson Tada isn’t nominated for an Oscar - that honor belongs to songwriters Bruce Broughton and Dennis Spiegel – but she nevertheless is aware that there’s a contingency that objects to such an obscure work being nominated alongside songs from big-budget Hollywood productions that audiences saw in the millions, while Alone Yet Not Alone earned just $134,000 during its 21-day release.”
Joni went on to say, “I read some of the blog posts and the negative responses, but I don’t blame those people. I’d be scratching my head, too. I don’t even know how this occurred. I don’t know how the nomination process works, but I’m grateful. I think I give a good performance but not a great one, and I think that the Academy recognizing this humble, good little song is rather wonderful.”
Eareckson Tada grew up in Maryland in a home where her parents regularly sang hymns. Today, she lives in Calabasas, California and runs her charitable organization, Joni and Friends, in nearby Agoura. She has been a quadriplegic for 47 years.
Alone Yet Not Alone tells the inspiring story of Barbara and Regina Leininger and their journey of faith and survival during the French & Indian war in 1755. Captured by the Allegheny Indians in a raid on their home and transported over 300 miles of wilderness to Ohio, the sisters are sustained only by their abiding trust in God, and their hope of escape against all odds to be reunited with their family.
It runs for 103 minutes, has a PG 13 rating and stars Kelly Greyson, Natalie Racoosin, Clay Walker, Jenn Gotzon, Joanie Stewart, Ozzie Torres, and Tony Wade.
To watch a video of Joni Eareckson Tada praying and then performing the song, please go to youtube and to see the trailer for the movie, go to www.aloneyetnotalone.com