The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is being criticized for rescinding the Oscar nomination of the song "Alone Yet Not Alone," which is from the Christian film of the same name. Calls are being made to allow the song to compete.
Artists for Life, a project of Cherish Life Ministries and whose affiliated artist Joni Eareckson Tada has sung the song, has issued a statement calling on the Academy to allow "Alone Yet Not Alone" to compete with other selections for the Oscar award.
The song was nominated for Best Original Song on Jan. 15, but the Academy rescinded the nomination on Jan. 29 on accusations that its composer, Bruce Broughton, used his leadership position in the Academy to improperly influence members to select the film. It is the Academy's first such action on ethical grounds.
"Bruce Broughton has a long and distinguished career which deserves better treatment at the hands of the Motion Picture Academy," Albert Strong, director of Artists for Life, said. "God will use this questionable ruling for His Glory and the song will be magnified through this episode more widely than we can know."
Broughton is a former governor of the music branch and current member of the executive committee of the Academy. He sent an email to about 70 of the branch's 239 members whose addresses came from his own Rolodex, not an academy database, according to The Los Angeles Times.
"I'm dropping you a line to boldly direct your attention to entry #57," he wrote. "I'm sending this note only because it is extremely unlikely that this small, independent, faith-based film will be seen by any music branch member; it's the only way I can think of to have anyone be aware of the song."
In an interview with The Christian Post on Friday, Broughton said, "My take on it is that it's a personal attack in order to discredit a nomination that disappointed the people who had spent a lot of money for something else." And in that way, they have been very successful, he added. "I have been discredited. My character has been besmirched and sullied."
Broughton went on to say that his campaign, "which I guess was the production company's campaign," was limited to writing some emails. "I didn't ask to vote for the song. I didn't call anyone up, I didn't promote the movie. I didn't do anything. I just pointed out the song on a list of 75 songs on the DVD that the Academy is sending."
Tada, who is also a disability rights activist and author, also issued a statement, saying the Academy's decision "in no way detracts from either the song's beauty or its message."
"I was humbled and honored to have been asked to sing it for the film, and was as surprised as anyone when I learned of the song's nomination," she said. "The decision by the Academy to rescind the nomination may well bring even further attention, and I only hope it helps to further extend the message and impact of the song."
According to veteran awards consultant Cynthia Swartz, Broughton's email wasn't different from other things that the Academy allows during campaigning for Oscar nominations.
Swartz, president of the Oscar consultancy Strategy PR, told the Times that Broughton's actions were "innocuous." She explained that it is not unusual for producers and studio executives to send email invitations to friends for screenings of their movies and events.
However, the president of the Academy, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, has said that "no matter how well-intentioned the communication, using one's position as a former governor and current executive committee member to personally promote one's own Oscar submission creates the appearance of an unfair advantage."
Daniel Diermeier, a professor at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management and an expert in crisis management, suggests there's no easy way out for the Academy now.
"If the Academy is just hoping they can keep quiet and this story will go away, they need to find a different strategy," he was quoted as saying. "It's a David-and-Goliath story, and in those stories people always side with the little guy. And then you add a faith-based culture-war dimension that plays into how some parts of the population see Hollywood. There are incentives all over the place to keep the story alive."
The film is based on the novel Alone Yet Not Alone by Tracy Leininger Craven, which is inspired by the true story of Barbara and Regina Leininger, who were taken by force from their German immigrant family in 1750s Pennsylvania.
Amid the struggle of the colonies to survive the opposing European power and hostile native tribes, the two sisters are captured and then separated, testing their faith to its farthest reaches. "Alone Yet Not Alone" is the hymn that holds their resolve and family strong, helping to guide their life-defining decisions and actions through their most perilous times.