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Joni Eareckson Tada
Photo courtesy of Joni and Friends
Joni Eareckson Tada

Joni Eareckson Tada: Oscar nod is ‘incredible’

Music | The Academy Award nomination for “Alone Yet Not Alone” has raised eyebrows and awareness for the independent Christian film

The Oscar nomination for “Alone Yet Not Alone,” the theme song for the independent Christian film by the same name, shocked Hollywood elites and dominated awards season buzz last week. The song, composed by Bruce Broughton with lyrics by Dennis Spiegel, will face off against tunes by U2 and Pharrell Williams, as well as the hit song from Disney’s Frozen, in the Best Original Song category. Joni Eareckson Tada, Christian author, speaker, quadriplegic, and advocate for people with disabilities, sang the song for the film. Although she declined last week to speak about the controversy surrounding the Academy Award nomination, she agreed this week to answer a few questions about her surprise at all the attention, and her thoughts about the song’s chances of winning.

What was your reaction to the nomination? Well, I was absolutely amazed. I mean, it’s not often that a family-friendly, Christian-themed film is up for an Oscar in any category. And, as Yahoo News has put it, it’s not even a dark horse—my goodness, it’s an invisible horse. I was just so thankful to God that it’s receiving so much interest from the press.

Has the recent flood of press coverage helped or harmed the movie? Oh, I think anytime people are talking about the movie, whether it’s positive or negative, it can do nothing but help the film. And, interestingly enough, the song figures very largely into the plot of the movie. So, it’s not as though it’s just an appendage to the script; it is part of the script. I think people will be fascinated to see how all that plays out.

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What convinced you to record the song? Partly, it was a favor to a friend. Some people who were connected with the production team of the movie had heard me speak and sing at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention last year and, in my message, I wove hymns in and out of my speech. These were dear friends and, when I realized that the song was hymn-based anyway, that also intrigued me. I thought it would just be a simple recording and that would be that. I’d get back to work and this little movie would go on its merry way and never the two would meet again. And now, all of a sudden, this bizarre, out-of-left-field nomination for an Oscar is just … it’s incredible.

What message do you want to leave with the song’s listeners? Years ago I wrote a mission statement for my life, and the mission statement is simply “I want to be God’s best audio-visual aid of how His power shows up best in weakness.” And, I see this opportunity as just another example of God answering that mission statement. God seems to delight in taking the ill-equipped, untrained, unskilled, and unprofessional and placing them to do a job so that the whole world would know that God is God. And, if people watch that video link [see below], that’s the message I hope they’ll get.

Why has such a huge controversy erupted over the song’s nomination? I think it’s part and parcel of the nomination process. It’s not at all unusual that there would be controversy, especially around an obscure film like this. It’s disheartening that immediately they assume there is foul play. Other obscure movies have come out of left field to be put in the spotlight. So, I’m not sure what makes this one different than any other. I’m sure many of these other films, whose themes are sung by Taylor Swift or Beyoncé or Carrie Underwood, have remarkable songs, so it’s understandable that eyebrows would be raised.

According to a Hollywood Reporter poll, 72 percent of its readers think that “Alone Yet Not Alone” will win the Oscar. Your response? [Laughs] What? That is so funny. That is just so incredible.

What chance do you think the song stands to win the Oscar? To be honest, I don’t know the criteria that members of the academy use when they vote for Best Song. But, I know it is a sweet, powerful, simple, humble song and sweetness and simplicity and humility, especially when expressed through weakness, often wins the day. It will be a surprise if it does win. But, I think it will be something that God will smile at.

Nathan Spangler
Nathan Spangler

Nathan is a student at Patrick Henry College.

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