Sound of Freedom, Over the Trafficking Target

Last week, on the Fourth of July, the film Sound of Freedom was released in theaters. The release had been delayed for years. The criticism the film has received since its release has also been unusual. There is a key connection between the delayed release and the post release criticism. The film is based on a true story, and that story is beyond ugly. The film builds from the efforts of former Homeland Security Special Agent Tim Ballard and his efforts to confront the scourge of child trafficking. Sound of Freedom is compelling, must see viewing about the international child sex trade. The film spares the audience from the actual abuse images, but captures the horror of the reality that exists. We urge you to see this moving film.

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

The Trailer for a Compelling Story

The trailer for Sound of Freedom provides a glimpse into the horror and heroism the film explores. At the conclusion of the trailer, Jim Caviezel, who portrays Ballard, provides some introductory insights.
Angel Studios: Sound of Freedom Trailer with Commentary from Actor Jim Caviezel | Posted 11 May 2023.

At the conclusion of the film, Caviezel provides a second commentary. His call to action for those in the audience is a passionate one. It is a moving moment seeking to move the public. Films often evoke powerful emotions. The makers of Sound of Freedom are seeking to harness that in-theater energy to build real world impact.

The Business Side of the Film

The film that many sought to bury has been doing very well at the box office. While there was limited paid promotion for the film, audience interest has been aided by the increasing influence of Angel Studios. Using its crowd-funding expertise, Angel Studies tapped into its “Pay It Forward” app. Under the approach, audience donors buy tickets that are then gifted to others who cannot afford to buy a ticket. That alone generated $2.6 million in opening day sales. Variety reported that after just six days of release, the film earned an “impressive $40 million” in ticket sales.

Sound of Freedom began as a 20th Century Fox production. However, by the time filming was completed in 2018, the Disney Corporation had acquired 20th Century Fox. Disney had no interest in releasing the film and shelved the project. Angel Studios acquired the rights to the film in March 2023, and moved to finally bring the film to theaters. Angel Studios is an independent, Christian content-friendly, production company. Among its most notable productions is the multi-season series, The Chosen, which tells the story of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.

The Critics of the Film

Much of the resistance to the film is not really about its quality. How do we know? Because people (without an agenda) who see the film give it high marks. As of this writing, Sound of Freedom has a very high IMDb rating of 8.6 out of 10. The Rotten Tomatoes site shows the film with a 100% audience score.

The film has also been positively profiled in conservative media, which then of course draws political crossfire. That negativity was further accelerated by the openly Christian and conservative views of the film’s star, Jim Caviezel.

Rolling Stone published one of the more egregious hit pieces on the film and those involved in its production. We link to the article for transparency and accuracy purposes. But, before reading the attack piece, we encourage our readers to see the film first. In the title of their article, Rolling Stone described the film as a Superhero Movie for Dads With Brainworms.” The subtitle was even worse, alleging: “The QAnon-tinged thriller about child-trafficking is designed to appeal to the conscience of a conspiracy-addled boomer.”

Jack Posobiec, a senior editor from Human Events and former U.S. Navy intelligence officer, took note of how the Guardian has portrayed the film and its subject matter. Posobiec noted that in 2018 child sex trafficking in Colombia was a real concern for the media outlet. Now, however, profiling sex trafficking in Colombia and elsewhere was described by the Guardian as being “paranoid.”

Guardian and Human Trafficking Coverage
Jack Posobiec Tweet on the Guardian’s differing take then and now on child trafficking.

Positive Reporting on the Film and Effort

Most of the criticisms and attack pieces about Sound of Freedom are indicative of the film being impactful, and that it is over the target. Some critics have gone so far as to challenge the film as making too big a deal about the problem. Such says more about them than the film.

Fortunately, there has also been much positive reporting on the film and those involved, including by the National Catholic Registry. The Registry was among those that provided context to Ballard’s efforts, and his career as an agent for Homeland Security. Ballard explained how he felt compelled to do more.

“I was a special agent for the U.S. government, working child crimes undercover for 12 years; 10 on the southern border. I was more shocked every year at how deep and big this problem was. After 12 years of limitations with government bureaucracy, there were two cases in 2012 that I was told to leave alone. I couldn’t. I had gone too deep. My wife and I made the decision to quit the government job to save the children.”

In their article, the Registry focused on a core idea. “God’s children are not for sale.” That idea was a driving principle for Tim Ballard. That statement was also dramatically presented by Jim Caviezel in the film. It is a principle that should resonate with us all.

The Importance of Truth

The film is based on Ballard’s true story. There are fictionalized elements. But the core elements are very true. Human trafficking is real, with millions of people, including children impacted worldwide. It is a devastating and true evil.

Tim Ballad was indeed an experienced special agent for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He worked child sex crimes cases. He apprehended pedophiles and others involved in the sex trafficking of children. Ballard, and those he has worked with, have successfully rescued and helped to rescue many children and young adults. In fact, CBS News reported that truth in an October 2014 report.

CBS News: Undercover agent helps bust up Colombian child sex ring | Posted 15 October 2014.

The raid that was the subject of the CBS News report, is powerfully presented in the film. Also true – Ballard founded Operation Underground Railroad, and he continues to be active in combatting child trafficking. The name of Ballard’s organization harkens back to the anti-slavery, freedom efforts, active prior to and during the early stages of the American Civil War.

Director Alejandro Monteverde has provided us with a riveting and important film. The cast has done amazing work, from Jim Caviezal to the child actors, Lucás Ávila and Cristal Aparicio. Amazing supporting actors included Bill Camp, Mira Sorvino, and José Zúñiga.

Analysis and Interviews by Jordan Peterson

Psychologist Jordan Peterson conducted a lengthy podcast discussion with Ballard and Caviezal. The discussion provided insights into Ballard’s work, the film, and the challenges faced by Caviezal and others in making the film. And of course, there were the insights into darkness and confronting evil that one would expect from a discussion led by Peterson.

Jordan Peterson: The Fight Against Worldwide Child Slavery & the Sex Trade | Jim Caviezel and Tim Ballard | EP 372 | Posted 3 July 2023.

ln the Peterson interview, Ballard explained that his first child exploitation case as a Homeland Security agent involved three small children. They were just seven, five and three years old. He explained how the work has continually reminded him about his own children. He spoke about having to come to grips with the reality that “there are millions of people, pedophiles seeking child exploitation materials.”

Faith and Truth

Among the most disturbing realities Ballard found was how traffickers speak about the “buying and selling children like buying and selling computer parts.” For Ballard, his faith, and prayer, have been essential in maintaining his own wellness. From the beginning of his work in the Child Sex Crimes Unit, he was aware that without his faith, the evil he was confronting would have crushed his soul. For both he and his wife, Katherine, their faith has been central to their continued strength and commitment to the work.

In preparing for this film, and others that explore darkness, Caviezal also described how he looks to God. He explained that many actors make a mistake in how they prepare to learn about evil. He advised: “Go to God to tell you who the devil is. That’s what I do … it gives me a protection.”

Both Ballard and Caviezal spoke about the scope of the trafficking problem. There is a need for greater awareness of this truth. Peterson explained: “People lie and remain silent because people think things will be easier for them and better, at least in the short term.” But his work and research has shown that ignoring the truth (like ignoring the reality of child sex trafficking) places us in peril. Peterson regularly instructs that speaking the truth is essential. He advises: “whatever makes itself manifest as a consequence of the truth, is the best possible reality that (can) be manifested.

Find a Theater

Are you ready to see the film? Go to the Sound of Freedom page at Angel Studios to find a theater near you.

We agree with the assessment from film costar Mira Sorvino, who plays Katherine Ballard. She posted a simple response to the “conspiracy theory” critics. Sound of Freedom is indeed a beautiful film and its ending is powerful and uplifting. We share her hope that the film ignites wider commitment to address the evils of child sex trafficking.

Mira Sorvino on Child Trafficking film Sound of Freedom
Film costar Mira Sorvino comments on Sound of Freedom.

We are interested in your thoughts, and invite you to comment below.

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