A Christian movie, which only screened in nine cities in 2013, has picked up an Academy Award nomination for "Best Original Song" this week and has surprised both critics and the song's composer and singer alike.
Joni Erickson Tada, the vocalist for the song, as well as an author, painter and quadriplegic who runs her own organization Joni and Friends, said that the Oscar nomination came as a complete surprise to her.
"I'm the least likely candidate to record a song for a movie, I'll tell you that up front, so it's amazing," Tada told The Hollywood Reporter. "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."
Bruce Broughton, who wrote the song and was previously nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Score in 1986 for "Silverado," said he had been stunned by the news.
"You couldn't ever call it a dark horse. It was an invisible horse," Broughton told Yahoo Movies. "My songwriting partner Dennis Spiegel [who wrote the song's lyrics] called and he was so excited he could hardly speak."
"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," he added.
Tada had little experience in the recording studio when she signed up for the project.
"Music and that whole realm is just so far from my everyday life today, so to wake up and see that something I did was up for an Academy Award just had me giggling," Tada said. "I thought, 'what? This is incredulous.' This is something that happens to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood, not me."
Released in theaters in late September 2013, "Alone Yet Not Alone," is based on a book of the same name, and tells the true story of two German settler girls who attempt to hold onto their Christian faith after being kidnapped by Native Americans.
The film is produced by Enthuse Entertainment, which describes its mission as one that works to create a "God-honoring, faith-based, family-friendly films that inspire the human spirit to seek and know God."
Since its nomination was announced, some critics have criticized the movie, claiming that it gives a negative and demeaning depiction of Native Americans. Native Appropriations, a Native American activist site, criticized the film's IMDB summary that described the story's primary conflict as "hostile native tribes are raiding the vulnerable frontier farms" and the girls' kidnapping as being " forcibly immersed into a primitive foreign culture."
"They give out oscars for racism now?" Native Appropriations asked.
Among the movie's endorsements are many conservative Evangelical political figures including former presidential candidate Rick Santorum, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, and Dr. James Dobson, formerly of Focus on the Family.
Yet the film failed to garner virtually any attention from mainstream movie critics, and movie ratings aggregator Rotten Tomatoes listed no reviews for the movie.
The film announced on its Twitter account that it would re-release the film in theaters the weekend of June 13, in time for Father's Day.
"Alone Yet Not Alone's" fellow nominees include songs from "Frozen," "Despicable Me 2," "Her," and "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom."
The Academy Awards will be held in Los Angeles on March 2.