Daily Beast Shouts Hallelujah Over 'Bible-Thumpers' Oscar Fail'

Yesterday my colleague Scott Whitlock noted how the CBS This Morning program had sidestepped a controversy in Hollywood regarding the revocation of an Oscar nomination for a song featured in a Christian-produced motion picture titled Alone Yet Not Alone. Academy officials charge it was improperly promoted

But apparently not every liberal media outlet is ignoring the story. Some, like the Daily Beast are covering it in order to revel in the news and to smear the folks who produced the film.

"Bible-Thumpers' Oscar Fail" blared the DailyBeast.com's teaser headline for Jonathan Fitzgerald and David Sessions's look "Inside the Conservative Christian Movie the Oscars Ousted."

"A right-wing sugar daddy, two groups of evangelical filmmakers, a famous composer, an Oscar nod, and an Academy backlash: the strange story of a Christian movie’s 15 minutes of fame," promised a synopsis of the story.

After briefly explaining how the Academy charged the song's composer with improperly influencing the nomination process, Fitzgerald and Sessions looked into how the film which features the song was produced, seeing an opportunity to slam those involved as racist "right-wing" religious extremists who pine for the olden days of "patriarchy" (emphasis mine):

[F]or all the frenzy of press the disqualification has provoked, that it was nominated in the first place was perhaps even more surprising. Alone Yet Not Alone was produced by a team of conservative evangelical filmmakers with virtually no Hollywood connections. Almost no one in the press or the entertainment industry has seen it: the movie had a week-long “qualifying run” in September, and is not being screened for critics ahead of its opening on June 13, according to Rogers & Cowan, the PR agency representing the film. Its nomination, which Broughton and the film’s creators have described as a grassroots victory, was a coup for the right-wing evangelical filmmakers who have been quietly building an alternative industry to produce movies colored by deeply ideological views about American history and politics.

Based on an evangelical book of the same title, Alone Yet Not Alone tells the story of a family that emigrated to the United States during the French and Indian War, fleeing religious persecution in 18th-century Germany. Under overwrought narration that strains to replicate the classic “in a world” tone of action trailers, the movie’s preview shows the settler protagonists clashing with Native American antagonists—beautiful, blonde Europeans brutalized by angry, dark savages. The title refers to the situation of the two female leads who are captured by “Injuns” (“alone...”) and ask God to rescue them (“...yet not alone”).

The film’s cast and crew reads, as journalist Katie Botkin put it, “like a partial who’s-who of dominion-mandate Christian entrepreneurs.” It brings together players from several different strands of the right-wing evangelical filmmaking world: one based around Patrick Henry College, a conservative liberal arts college in Purcellville, Virginia; and another group closely tied to Vision Forum Ministries, a far-right evangelical patriarchy movement based in Texas that recently imploded when its founder, Doug Phillips, confessed to an “inappropriate relationship” with a younger woman.

The Virginia group, known as Advent Film Group, is not officially affiliated with Patrick Henry College, though its first major production, Come What May, was filmed on the school’s campus near Washington, D.C., starred the school’s founder, and featured numerous Patrick Henry students as crew members. Directed by Advent founder George Escobar, Come What May recapitulated several themes of the evangelical homeschooling movement, centering on a “courtship” (a parent-controlled romantic relationship) that takes place between two members of Patrick Henry’s Moot Court team while they stand for their convictions by using a certain-to-lose anti-abortion argument in a competition.

Escobar is also a producer, as well as a co-director and writer, of Alone Yet Not Alone, whose cast and crew features a sprinkling of people associated with Advent Film Group. Brett Harris, a graduate who was well-known in the evangelical world well before he attended Patrick Henry as co-author of the popular teen book Do Hard Things, plays the character Owen. Several other former Patrick Henry students also worked on the film’s crew.

If there’s an even deeper shade of red on the conservative evangelical spectrum, it’s in west Texas, where Doug Phillips has, since the early 2000s, been creating a bizarro-Hollywood for radical right-wing filmmakers. Until his fall from grace in late 2013, Phillips was a leading figure in the “quiverfull” movement, an umbrella term for a patriarchal ideology that eschews all forms of birth control and encourages its followers to produce large families. In 2004, Phillips’ Vision Forum Ministries launched the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival, an annual confab for films made by young homeschooled Christian filmmakers and heavily favoring movies with political themes, like opposition to feminism and socialism. (The festival has been suspended in the wake of Vision Forum’s closure.)


The nomination of the movie’s title song for an Academy Award was an accolade that filmmakers from this fringe conservative Christian world could hardly have dreamed of, considering that their films have mostly been limited to low-budget productions with obvious conservative agendas. But it was that very unlikelihood that intensified scrutiny about how the song got its votes. Not surprisingly, the movie’s supporters bitterly chalked up the Academy’s decision to another assault from their liberal persecutors.

“Shame on you Motion Picture Academy for taking the low road, saving your own butts and doing this to one of your former Governors and Head of the Music Branch,” Belinda Broughton, the wife of the song’s composer, wrote on Facebook.

“This is STUNNING news,” Escobar added, posting a link to a story announcing the Academy’s decision. “An injustice. Read. Share. Pray. Forgive.”

All that effort to drag through the mud an independent film hardly anyone has heard of. Stay classy, Daily Beast.

Online Media Daily Beast Movies David Sessions Jonathan Fitzgerald