‘Sound of Freedom’ Gets Punished for Doing Good

The Straw Man: Exposing Child Trafficking Is QAnon Apologism

'Sound of Freedom' gets punished for doing good. Praise for the movie, for shedding light on trafficking, has been strikingly limited.

Praise for the movie, for shedding light on trafficking, has been strikingly limited. (Andrés Sebastián Díaz)

Lee en español.

Sound of Freedom (2023)—a movie that draws attention to child trafficking in the Americas—represents courage, determination, and justice. This film, based on real operations to rescue minors from traffickers, uncovers how this abhorrent, billion-dollar business expands every year. This is taking place right in front of Latin American governments, who fail to take action, and public nonchalance.

Praise for the movie, for shedding light on trafficking, has been strikingly limited. For whatever reason, progressive media instead have dedicated themselves to making nonexistent connections between the movie and rabbit-hole speculation.

On July 4, 2023, Angel Studios released the independent thriller, directed by 46-year-old Mexican Alejandro Monteverde. With a limited budget of $14 million, Sound of Freedom became a box-office success, reaching $100 million in revenue in the United States three weeks after its premiere. In August the film crossed the $175 million mark in box-office revenue, beating massive Hollywood productions such as Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny and Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part One, which had a budget of $300 and $290 million, respectively.

The film stars US actor Jim Caviezel, who became famous for playing Jesus in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. He portrays the heroic former US Department of Homeland Security official Timothy Ballard. Ballard, who has dedicated his life to persecuting sex offenders against minors, worked for 10 years in the public sector before independently infiltrating US-Latin American trafficking networks to rescue minors.

The movie starts with the story of a child trafficker who sees in Rocío and Miguel, two Honduran children, a new target for her business. The trafficker introduced herself as a child modeling agent. After convincing Rocío and Miguel’s parents to take them to a casting, she kidnaps and sends the children to Colombia, where her comrades sell the minors.

As shown in the film, Ballard, in one of his police operations, saved Miguel. He was at the US-Mexico border under the control of a pederast. After finding out his sister’s location in Cartagena, Colombia, Ballard promised Miguel to travel to the South American country and rescue her.

Ballard was disgusted by the excessive bureaucracy that halted effective operations to rescue minors from traffickers in Latin America. He then quit his job as a government official and worked independently. That included starting his own NGOs to advocate for child freedom: Operation Underground Railroad and the Spear Fund.

Far from being sordid and full of despair, Sound of Freedom portrays a complex and heartbreaking issue by focusing on Ballard’s bravery. The movie’s positive message is that we can effectively fight the atrocity of child trafficking. With Ballard’s iconic phrase “God’s kids are not for sale,” the film captivates its audience.

After the movie’s premiere, Producer Eduardo Verástegui revealed in a livestream on his social media that in 2018 they had signed a contract with 20th Century Fox to distribute Sound of Freedom. However, after Disney bought Fox in 2019, the incoming executives dismissed the contract.

In a similar vein, streaming powerhouses such as Amazon Prime and Netflix rejected distributing Sound of Freedom. Meanwhile, Netflix in 2020 added to its platform the movie Cuties, which consumers criticized because it sexualized children.

Angel Studios, by using equity crowdfunding, raised $5 million from 6,676 people. Neal Harmon, CEO of Angel Studios, has shared that after the movie’s success the studio paid back the investors with a 20 percent gain: “For every $1 invested, we paid back investors $1.20.” At the time of writing this review, the movie has obtained box-office revenue of $250 million.

Even though the film did not push ideology, progressive media have had an odd reaction. They have tried to persuade the public to refrain from watching Sound of Freedom, since apparently the movie evokes so-called conspiracy theories. It does not, but Ballard, Verástegui, and Caviezel’s conservative proclivities—Caviezel is an ardent Catholic, for example—became an excuse for progressive media to split hairs.

For example, Bloomberg columnist Noah Berlatsky criticizes the movie by saying it does “little to help the victims.” Instead, he claims the movie seeks to connect the audience with the QAnon allegations. Paradoxically, Berlatsky was the communications director at Prostasia. This child protection NGO funds the minor-attracted people support club (MSC).

Rolling Stone journalist Miles Klee characterizes Sound of Freedom as “a QAnon-tinged superhero movie for dads with brainworms.” QAnon is an internet movement that accuses the Democratic Party and Hollywood elites of running a network of satanic pedophilia that seeks to harvest adenochrome from children’s blood. Since there is no reference to any of this in the movie, the conspiracy theorists are these critics.

Vast evidence demonstrates the expansion of child trafficking, but legacy media have, in general, belittled a sophisticated movie that raises awareness of the problem. These critics claim that the movie promotes right-wing narratives, but the child-trafficking problem is enormous and should transcend ideology. According to NGO Polaris Project, human smuggling is a business that produces over $150 billion per year across the world. The NGO adds that 27 percent of the victims are children.

Due to poor institutions, the data in Latin America regarding child trafficking are scant. The US government’s June 2023 Trafficking in Persons Report asserts that only Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Guiana, and the Bahamas meet the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards. On the other hand, Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua fail to meet any of the US standards.

Illegal migration, common in Latin America, facilitates human traffickers’ operations in the region. A December 2022 Interpol study in Latin America for five days identified 9,015 irregular migrants crossing borders in the region. Two men and 128 women were identified victims of human trafficking.

Prominent political leaders across the region have joined the fight against child trafficking. Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele—alongside Verástegui—signed a letter of intent for the eradication of child trafficking. Argentine presidential candidate Javier Milei did the same. Former President Donald Trump has praised the film and included in his campaign platform the promise of promoting the death penalty for child traffickers. This adds to his emphasis on the problem while in the White House.

This independent film, apart from shocking the world with its excellent cinematographic quality, dares to speak up about sordid crimes while major movie studios remain silent. Despite facing rejection by multiple studios due to their cowardice and indifference, Sound of Freedom’s producers overcame the adversity of modest funds and shed light on an issue that many prefer to ignore.

Andrés Sebastián Díaz Ponce

Andrés Sebastián holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and international relations from the University of the Americas, Ecuador. He founded Libertario, a Spanish-speaking community that promotes the ideas of liberty in Latin America, and he collaborates with the Ecuadorian liberal think tank Libre Razón. Follow @asdp250.

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