Alone Yet Not Alone
Interview with Co-Director/Co-Writer George Escobar
In theatres now
In 1755, the Leininger family, Lutherans from Germany, came to live in the British Colonies in America to escape persecution at home. They settled in the Ohio Valley but soon found their farm was at ground zero for the war between the French and British for control of the Colonies. It was the earliest stage of the international Seven Years’ War and was a violent and deadly time. Like the British and French, the Native Americans were hard hit and suffered great losses, kidnapping settlers to replace their murdered families. Two Leininger girls were taken and raised by Dakotas until they forgot their original lives and their original Christian faith. Would their family ever seen them again? Alone Yet Not Alone is based on a true story and on the book by Barbara Leininger’s descendant, Tracy Leininger Craven. We spoke with Escobar about the latest faith-based film to open in wide release in the US.
Monsters and Critics - You’re dealing with two especially sensitive issues today, the depiction of fundamentalist Christians and Native Americans. Were you concerned?George Escobar - That’s the backdrop of the story about a family Leininger family who emigrated from Germany. They were thought they were going to a safer place and fleeing the perpetual wars in Europe. They landed right in the middle of the hornet’s nest, the struggle for the colonies between the French and the English and Native Americans are caught in the middle. We were very careful to be as historically accurate and depict all sides and to make sure we understood their involvement in the war and their goals, very respectful especially when the women were in captivity under the Dakotas. They explain that the tribes were trying to replenish the people they’d lost in disease and in the wars, and the bravery and honour of those warriors and chiefs. Also it is about the brutality on both sides with without being too graphic. There’s a lot of excitement because the story takes place at that critical period of time; we didn’t have to make up any events because we had historic action and drama. And the female characters are the heroines, especially Barbara the eldest sister who grew up in captivity and had the strength to endure the hardships of a primitive foreign culture. It takes a strong woman to survive.
Kelly Greyson as Barbara Leininger
G.E. - That was the inspiration to pursue the story. Researching it as a college student writing a novel, I spent time visiting the places. It’s one of the few captivity stories that has a lot of research around it. When we were doing our production, there was one thesis about the particular captivity story grad student had written.
M&C - Briefly describe the journey of the kidnapped girls.
G.E. - It starts at home in New World, in Philadelphia, and it opens in prayers praising God for the sweet rain that falls. They are farmers and know they need rain. We follow their faith journey at home as the father reads the Bible to the girls and the mother sings the old hymn Alone Yet Not Alone. Barbara and the other girls learn the song and ten years later, after being kidnapped and raised as Natives, they recognise it and their foggy memories are stirred of their earlier lives.
M&C - Did you shoot in some of the locations were the action took place?
G.E. - Tracy Leininger their descendant who wrote the book visited the actual locations for the movie and I did as well. But it was difficult to find non-modern farmland we could use. Explore Park in Roanoke Virginia allowed us to use it, 200 acres were open to us with forests, rivers and farmland and a fort which was supposed to be a museum but was closed. In Vonore, Tennessee we found Fort Loudon State Historic Park, an unchanged fort and redressed it three or four times to appear as different forts. So we were done in one. We also filmed at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg and Jamestown, Virginia as well as North Carolina in the same places The Last Mohican was filmed.M&C - What do you make of the current wave of religious films that will be continuing into at least 2016? Why is interest so high now?
G.E. - Hollywood and the smaller indies after the initial success of The Passion of the Christ ten years ago attempted to recreate its success but missed the mark. It’s banner year now with both the major and indie films. Recently God is Not Dead, Heaven is for Real and now Alone Yet Not Alone. What has happened is that we separate audiences unnaturally, the Christian and the general market. If we believe what the stats tell us. 70 – 80% of audiences identify themselves as Christian and they want films that reaffirm their faith and provide as we do in Alone Yet Not Alone, an application of that faith, a family that reads the Bible, the mother sings hymns, particularly Alone Yet Not Alone, and adherence to Christian values.
M&C - You are a film teacher and technology innovator as well as a successful television producer. You have achieved a lot; what’s driven you?G.E. - I’ve been blessed with many gifts and unfortunately until 2007 I had used those gifts selfishly for my own gratification. Steven Kendrick an evangelical pastor and filmmaker and I had a conversation and chatted and he asked me what I was doing with my skills and talents and I said nothing, that I was completely selfish. Three months later he allowed me to join a film company – a way to train and raise up the next generation of filmmakers that happen to be Christian. I had to find a way to tell stories that have a Christian worldview and yet are compelling to everyone.