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Sound of Freedom Puts Awareness on Sex Trafficking Crisis

-Editorial

Coming out of a strong opening weekend, the film Sound of Freedom is not only having success in theaters but it’s creating discussion and awareness about human trafficking.

The film is directed and co-written by Alejandro Monteverde, and stars Jim Caviezel, Mira Sorvino, and Bill Camp. Caviezel plays Tim Ballard, a former government agent who embarks on a mission to rescue children from sex traffickers in Colombia. It is produced by Eduardo Verástegui, who also plays a role in the film.

Verástegui approached Angel Studios with the release rights. Angel presented the film to an online group of 100,000 investors in its past projects called the Angel Guild, which gave it a “yes” vote within days. On March 30, 2023, Variety reported that Angel Studios had acquired the worldwide distribution rights, with a planned release during the second half of 2023. On May 12, it received a release date of July 4, 2023.

Angel used equity crowdfunding to raise the funds needed to distribute and market the film. 7,000 people invested, allowing Angel to meet its $5 million goal in two weeks. They also encouraged patrons to “pay it forward” to allow people who might not otherwise see the movie to watch it in theaters for free. Goya Cares, an anti-human trafficking foundation established by Goya Foods, announced its support as executive producer for the release. Actor and director Mel Gibson endorsed the film in a video.

The Angel Studios movie earned the No. 3 spot during its first weekend on screen, raking in $18.2 million and coming ahead of Disney’s “Elemental” and “The Flash,” per Box Office Mojo. After six days in theaters, the film has made more than $40.2 million at the box office — making it an unexpected hit.

“Sound of Freedom is respectfully and stunningly filmed, based on real events of undercover heroes bringing hope to many,” said Neal Harmon, CEO of Angel Studios. “This film will keep audiences on the edge of their seats with suspense and encourage all of us to take action.”

“I am so proud to be a part of this impactful film,” said Jim Caviezel, who portrays the lead. “I’d say this is the second most important film I’ve done after The Passion Of The Christ.”

While the film is purportedly based on real events involving Ballard’s involvement in Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R), Ballard embellished multiple details about himself and O.U.R. The accounts of the events depicted have been questioned by researchers and reporters. In a 2020 article on Vice News, Anna Merlan states that Ballard embellished O.U.R.’s role in the rescue of a trafficked woman.

In a 2021 follow-up article, Melan and Tim Marchman criticized O.U.R.’s practices, including using inexperienced donors and celebrities as part of its jump team, a lack of meaningful surveillance or identification of targets, failing to validate whether the people they intended to rescue were actual trafficking victims, and conflating consensual sex work with sex trafficking. A 2021 article in Slate criticized a 2014 raid conducted by O.U.R. in the Dominican Republic, saying that it was likely to have traumatized the trafficked children. Anne Gallagher, an authority on human trafficking, wrote in 2015 that O.U.R. had an “alarming lack of understanding about how sophisticated criminal trafficking networks must be approached and dismantled” and called the work of O.U.R. “arrogant, unethical and illegal”.

Investigative journalists Lynn Packer and Damion Moore of American Crime Journal reported that Tim Ballard lied about his involvement in the case portrayed in the film and fabricated details about his child sex trafficking activities.

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