January 17, 2014

About Alone Yet Not Alone

With its Oscar nomination for best song, people are wondering about the obscure film Alone Yet Not Alone. I hadn't heard of it either, so I did some research. Here's the story:

Introducing 'Alone Yet Not Alone,' the year's most obscure Oscar nominee

Yet again, the Best Original Song category turns up a shocker

By Guy Lodge
If you already knew what the movie was when the nomination was announced, give yourself a pat on the back, since it doesn't seem a stretch to call this Christian drama the most obscure feature film nominated for an Oscar this year. As I scoured the Internet to find out what exactly it was, not a whole lot came up: there is no trace of the film's existence on Metacritic, while its Rotten Tomatoes page features not a single review. Okay, so it's not the critical radar, but how about commercially? I'd like to tell you, but Box Office Mojo hasn't heard of it either.

Turns out the film received a limited release in September, specifically within the Christian market. Production company Enthuse Entertainment describes themselves as producing "God-honoring, faith-based, family-friendly films that inspire the human spirit to seek and know God." A true-life historical drama set in 1755, it tells the story of two young sisters captured by native Americans during a raid on their family's farm. As the poster informs us, a "forced marriage" and "desperate escape" ensue. (I really hope this isn't as politically dubious as it sounds.) Cue the titular song, a family hymn that provides them with solace and inspiration during their ordeal.
Christian Movie 'Alone Yet Not Alone' Receives Surprising Oscar Nomination

By Morgan LeeReleased 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.

Since its nomination was announced, some critics have criticized the movie, claiming that it gives a negative and demeaning depiction of Native Americans.
Sources for the movie

The ads say Alone Yet Not Alone is based on a true story. Well, sort of. It's apparently based on a novelization of a true story:

Alone Yet Not Alone: Their faith became their freedom

A reviewer didn't think much of this novel:From School Library Journal

Gr 4-6. Barbara and Regina Leininger were from a family of German immigrants who were living in the Blue Mountains of Pennsylvania in 1755, and they were captured by Indians during the French and Indian War. This novel, based on their experiences, focuses on the faith that sustained them during their captivity. Given to different tribes, the sisters are separated and do not see each other again for close to 10 years. Although Barbara is treated well by Galasko, the Indian brave who wants to marry her, life is hard. She never loses her determination to escape, and after several years, she and three other captives manage to flee successfully. What could have been an interesting story of survival is diminished by the book's simplistic tone and lack of nuance. The settlers are beautiful and compassionate, while many Indians are unattractive, cruel, and troubled because they don't believe in one god. The depiction of them is beyond biased and there is no attempt to provide any historical background or explanation for their actions. It will be difficult to find an audience for this book.
I guess the novel is based on the following historical narrative. It seems to be a pamphlet of the girls' adventures as told to a minister or some other official:

"The Narrative of Marie le Roy and Barbara Leininger, for Three Years Captives among the Indians"

If the pamphlet is accurate, the movie isn't totally off-base. The girls weren't hurt but did witness others being tortured, and they suffered from privation, primarily hunger. They never accepted captivity and dreamed of escaping, but thought they'd be "roasted alive" if the Indians recaptured them.

Of course, the pamphlet's accuracy is a big "if." The girls could've exaggerated their travails, or the official could've exaggerated them. I wouldn't give much credence to a settler's account of Indian life.

The actual events

Here's the massacre in which the girls were taken captive. The Wikipedia entry is presumably more neutral than accounts by the participants. It provides some background but doesn't tell us what the captives endured:

Penn's Creek Massacre

Even the background is lacking. Did the British and French have any legal right to settle on the Indians' land? Were any agreements ratified by the whole tribe or just a friendly "chief"? How many Indians were killed by the settlers' guns and diseases? Etc.

Without more information, we have to wonder if the movie is more false than true. Indians did commit crimes, but they were defending their land, not rampaging for no reason. It was a like an early version of "Stand Your Ground": They had the right to kill anyone who threatened them.


Anonymous said...

Kind of interesting but here is commentary from Libby Anne that the people behind this movie are not just ordinary evangelicals but part of the extremist dominionist and reconstructionist movements: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2014/01/oscar-nominated-alone-but-not-alone-a-product-of-the-doug-phillips-michael-farris-empire.html#disqus_thread


Unknown said...

The people behind the film are Christian Reconstructionists, an extremist cult. Even though this movie is called a "Christian" movie, the group holds several beliefs that would shock many Christians such as the return of stoning for adulterers and homosexuals.

Unknown said...

The people behind the film are Christian Reconstructionists, an extremist cult. Even though this movie is called a "Christian" movie, the group holds several beliefs that would shock many Christians such as the return of stoning for adulterers and homosexuals.

Anonymous said...

I just found this link about the people behind the movie: http://kbotkin.com/2014/01/16/alone-yet-not-alone-in-a-sea-of-dominionism/

The blog author is related to one of the men (Geoff Botkin) who is influential in some Reconstructionist and Christian Patriarchy circles.

These are the kind of folks who KNOW their religion and culture is superior to any and all others, so of course those 'heathen Indians' were baaaaaaad.

Anonymous said...

The film actually portrays British, French, and colonial actions as motivating factors in the incident and shows sympathetic portrayals of several Native Americans. But if it happened, it happened. Having seen the film, I have to doubt that those who made it are nearly as extreme as some of the people making comments on here.