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Out-of-Nowhere Christian Film Scores Oscar Nomination … and Strong Reactions

Bryan Enk
Yahoo Movies
January 16, 2014
Alone Yet Not Alone
Alone Yet Not Alone

So just what in the heck is "Alone Yet Not Alone"?

Every year there are a few Oscar nominations that come out of left field, either for a film that wasn't on the Oscar pundits' radar (such as, say, "Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa") or giving a nod to film with artistic merit that perhaps didn't connect with critics (Wong Kar-wai's "The Grandmaster"). This year, however, there's one nominee that's truly something of a 'mystery film.'

The most surprising nomination this year is the Best Original Song nom for "Alone Yet Not Alone," a title that left pretty much everyone scratching their heads when it was announced. HitFix scoured the Internet looking for background on the film and found that there's not one single review of it on Rotten Tomatoes; nor is there any box office information on Box Office Mojo.

[Related: 2014 Oscars: Complete List of Nominees]

"You couldn't ever call it a dark horse. It was an invisible horse," freshly-minted nominee and veteran film and television composer Bruce Broughton, who wrote the song, told Yahoo Movies shortly after he learned the exciting news. "My songwriting partner Dennis Spiegel [who wrote the song's lyrics] called and he was so excited he could hardly speak," Broughton shared.

This is his second Oscar nomination (he got a nod for Best Original Score in 1986 for "Silverado"). It's a special one because his career, which dates back to the '70s with shows like "Gunsmoke" and "CHiPs."" has been dominated by composer gigs — a whopping 125 of them, according to IMDb, in which he created the films' overall scores but not the singles are standalone songs that appear in them. "Composers don't often get the job to do the song," he told Yahoo over the phone on Thursday. "That's very exciting... the chance to be known for writing a tune."

[Related: 'American Hustle,' 'Gravity' Lead Oscar Nominations; 'Slave' Close Behind]

Deeper digging revealed that "Alone Yet Not Alone" film had a limited release (nine cities) on Sept. 27, 2013, targeted specifically toward the Christian market. Its production company – Enthuse Entertainment – describes itself as a producer of "God-honoring, faith-based, family-friendly films that inspire the human spirit to seek and know God." The film tells an alleged true-life tale from 1755 of two young sisters kidnapped by Native Americans after a raid on their family farm.

Film.com writer Daniel Weber points out the movie is officially endorsed by Republican Rick Santorum and some anti-gay groups. "This is the pepper in the salad," Broughton said when we brought it up. "You never know who's going to attach themselves to something," he said, adding that his song is integral to the film, which he calls "a very straight forward story." Weber weighed in, telling Yahoo over email, "Overall, it's just a bit of a surprise to see names like Rick Santorum... popping up in an Oscar race. It's definitely an evangelical film, which you can tell from the music video for the nominated song, but that alone is hardly a reason to condemn it."

The plot of "Alone Yet Not Alone" also deals with the Native Americans (referred to as "savages" in the film's trailer) attempting to "indoctrinate" the kidnapped girls "into native culture," as reported by Film.com. The women, however, retain their faith, turning the film into a tale of Christianity "triumphing" over other religions and practices.

Meanwhile, the Oscar-nominated song in question is also titled "Alone Yet Not Alone," a solemn ode to finding comfort in Christianity written by Broughton and Spiegel and performed by Joni Eareckson Tada. "I was just trying to come up with a good tune that sounded like a hymn... one that doesn't beat you over the head with a strong message," said Broughton.

Still, a song that could be sung in church (one of Broughton's goals in creating it), is a bit of the odd man out alongside amusing tunes from "Frozen" and "Despicable Me 2," a cute ditty from "Her" and U2's anthem from "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom."

So how exactly did this film manage to score an Oscar nomination? Hitfix suggested it's because Broughton is an Academy Governor. Correction Hitfix: He is a former Governor, Yahoo confirmed. It's worth noting that the song very closely aligns with the Academy's guidance on Best Song — as it is closely, thematically relevant to the film (like "Frozen"'s "Let It Go").

Regardless of the circumstances, the nomination is sparking some strong reactions, some if it over the confusion on Broughton's status with the Academy.

Stay tuned to see where this all goes … though we doubt there's an actual win in the future for this one. At least it won't be "Alone" as the only non-winner in the Original Song category.

Meriah Doty contributed to this report.

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