UPDATE (1/31/14): The Academy’s board of governors voted to rescind the original song nomination for “Alone Yet Not Alone.” The decision was prompted by the discovery that Broughton, a former governor and current music branch executive committee member, had emailed members of the branch to make them aware of his submission during the nominations voting period.
Lights, glamour, indulgence, actors, these are a few of the words that might come to mind when we think of the Oscars. In March, one of the most coveted nights in Hollywood will include big names, glitz, and a low-budget, obscure Christian film — Alone Yet Not Alone.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has nominated “Alone Yet Not Alone” for best original song, taking everyone by surprise, including its singer, Joni and Friends Founder and CEO, Joni Eareckson Tada. “When I heard the news I thought they were kidding,” said Tada.
Set in the mid-1700s and based on a true story, Alone Yet Not Alone depicts a family fleeing religious persecution in Germany to America. The movie was adapted from a book by Tracy Leininger Craven. The Oscar nominated song (also by the same name) captures the vision of the struggle the family endured while living during that era. The lyrics of “Alone Yet Not Alone” also captured the heart of Tada.
“I really resonated with the words – after all, I sit down in a stand-up world and often feel ‘alone;’ but of course with my faith in God, I'm never really alone! The Bible is filled with stories of God picking ill-equipped, unskilled people for places of great influence – that’s how I feel, me, a quadriplegic, singing an Academy Award nominated song.”
Tada, 64, is the Founder and CEO of Joni and Friends International Disability Center, a Christian organization dedicated to advancing disability ministry within churches and assisting families affected by disability around the world. Joni and Friends was founded in 1979, 15 years after Tada, then 17, suffered a diving accident leaving her a quadriplegic.
Friday morning while preparing for the day, Tada’s phone rang and on the other end was her long-time friend.
“(On Thursday) my good friend Bobbie Wolgemuth called while I was still getting up and shared with me about the academy nomination. It takes me about two hours to get up in the morning. I have women who help me,” she said.
And though mornings can be arduous for Tada, this one was special, “It was quite a fun way to start the day. I thought they were kidding. Christian films are never given that platform and that this little film would beat out Taylor Swift. Wow.”
Last year, while speaking at the closing session of the National Religious Broadcasters’ Convention, Tada was spotted by representatives of Enthuse Entertainment, the producer of Alone Yet Not Alone, and asked to consider singing the theme song of the movie. During her session, Tada intertwined singing hymns as she spoke, which caught the producer’s attention.
“When I heard the simple, humble song, I wanted to record it,” she said, “I’m over the top about what God is doing. It is a little Christian film and here it is, up for an academy award.
As news broke about the Best Song nominations, People Magazine featured all five songs on their website, including video of the performances. Shocked to see this, Tada reflected on watching the song and her prayer offered prior on a secular magazine site.
“People Magazine posted the video of me singing the song and offering up a prayer in the beginning. In that prayer I’m speaking of the Lord’s power in my life. And to think of how many people will see that. God did that. I’m excited.”
Tada’s prayer begins with acknowledging her limitations and dependence on the Lord: “We are the ones that run to you when we are weak. And, uh, you know this body, you formed this body. This is a quadriplegic body. That is broken. My lungs are limited. But there’s this fine balance with presenting to you all of my weakness and thinking that it can’t be done. I don’t want to think that it can’t be done. So Father, I pray that you will mitigate any crackiness in my voice . . . and so, give me your strength.”
Admittedly, Tada is not a professional singer and because of her limited lung capacity, she has a difficult time staying on pitch and hitting high notes. She has, however, previously recorded songs available for purchase on her website.
“Upon hearing the news, I kept thinking of the millions of singers who would want to be in my shoes,” she said, “I’m not a professional singer. Though this doesn’t mean as much to me as to some, I’m not cavalier. This is a huge surprise. Extremely honored.”
Each year the Oscars feature the nominated songs throughout the evening. Although Tada is unsure whether she will be singing, Christianity Today reported that the song will indeed be performed live during the televised awards night.
When asked what she would say if the “Alone Yet Not Alone” received the coveted award Tada said, “If it did win, it would be a miracle. If I were ever asked to share my thoughts, I would paint a quick picture of God’s heart and what he wants to see done with this marvelous themed movie. What God wants to see happen. I’d make much of the miracle of this simple little story. He’s saying something, so we should listen.”
Alone Yet Not Alone releases on June 13 and is set to release in 185 cities per the website. This is the second Academy Award nomination for Bruce Broughton, the composer of “Alone Yet Not Alone”. He was previously nominated for: Silverado (1985) – for Music (Original Score).
Along with leading Joni and Friends, Tada has written over 70 books including When God Weeps (Zondervan, 2010) and her latest along with her husband, Ken Tada, Joni & Ken: An Untold Story (Zondervan, 2013).