Audiences will soon see for themselves the film at the center of all the fuss during Oscar season. Alone Yet Not Alone, the movie that was nominated, and quickly denominated, for a Best Song Oscar, comes to theaters on Friday, June 13.
George Escobar, c0-director of Alone Yet Not Alone, says his head is still spinning from the very public controversy.
“I was completely surprised and shocked that it was nominated. I was equally shocked when it was rescinded,” he told Patheos via phone this week.
Asked if he thought the Academy’s change of heart was a case of anti-religious bias, as claimed by the singer of the track, Joni Eareckson Tada, Escobar demurred.
“It’s hard to make that case. There are people who are trying to make that case. I really don’t want to assign motives to people I don’t know. God is in charge and this is how he chose to make the movie known.”
The song in question gives the film its title and heart.
The movie follows a family of German immigrants to America. The mother (Jonie Stewart) sings the German hymn to the children in the evenings after the father (Robert Pierce) reads them the Bible. When the two young daughters are abducted by Native Americans during the French and Indian War, the hymn and Bible verses sustain them throughout their captivity and play a key part in the ending.
Faith weaves throughout the movie.
The family grounds itself in their religion and rejoices in the chance to worship freely in America. Once the action moves to tribal villages, one fellow captive dies calling out to Jesus as she is killed by her captors.
Most notable, however, is the way the main character Barbara (Kelly Grayson) remembers her parents teaching even as she grows into adulthood in Native American villages.
For Escobar, who co-wrote the script as well as directed, this is the key message for today. “The main thing I hope people would get out of it….is that they need to spend the time and instill God’s word in the hearts of their children… We know God will never leave us or forsake us, no matter what trials and tribulations we go through. That’s the message of the movie and I hope people will remember that.”
Filmed on an estimated $7 million budget, Alone Yet Not Alone is one of a steady stream of films for the religious audience released by small, niche-focused film companies far from Hollywood’s big lots.
New methods of distribution, such as an increased DVD market, the growing overseas market, and online streaming, make small firms profitable, or at least potentially profitable.
“Those who continue to make good quality films on a budget, the market is growing worldwide,” said Escobar, “One of the fallacies that people make, they look at the general market as secular. If the statistics are correct, the general audience is made up of Christians, statistically speaking, people who self-identify as Christian.”
But will that general audience turn out to buy tickets?
The actual results are varied. Recent films like God’s Not Dead and Heaven is For Real, aimed at the faith-based market have turned a decent profit. Others, such as the comedy Mom’s Night Out have faded quickly, but may become profitable with home viewing.
Escobar is just getting started. With two films in post-production and a training component to teach the faithful the secrets of moviemaking, he plans to keep making movies with God in mind. “We may be a niche,” he said, “But we’re serving an unmet need.”
Rebecca Cusey is the lead movie critic and editor of entertainment at Patheos.com