Which is the jim caviezeldirected action drama sound Of Freedom, exactly? A solid indie action movie, which has made a surprising amount of money since opening on July 4? A moving true story about a true American hero? A dangerous gateway to misinformation and conspiracy? A gamble that has paid off beyond anyone’s wildest expectations?
for director Alejandro Monteverde, The answer is simple: sound of freedom it was a calling. He says that she sat down to write the film in 2017, after seeing a segment on an evening news show…60 minutes, 20/20, date line, I used to record them all”, about child trafficking. “I saw it and I couldn’t sleep”, he tells me in an interview. “I knew about human trafficking. I just didn’t know about the trafficking of children for sexual exploitation.”
The next day, he felt that he needed to write a movie on the subject. with co-writer rod Barr, He spun a completely fictional script called The model, about a happy-go-lucky wealthy guy who discovers an underground trade in sexually exploited children and then starts buying the children for safety. “If I had continued to make a complete fiction, I would not have any of these attacks,” says the native of Mexico somewhat regretfully.
But that’s not what happened. Instead, a fledgling film producer asked Monteverde if he had ever heard of Tim Ballard, a former homeland security special agent who had begun making waves for a non-profit organization he founded, Operation Underground Railroad (OUR), which was allegedly involved in rescuing trafficked children. “So I googled it,” says Monteverde.
Online results were plentiful and included a prominent 2014 CBS News article on Operation Triple Take, a joint action between OUR and the Colombian government that reportedly rescued 123 trafficked people, 55 of whom were children. “And I was like, Wow, I would love to meet this guy,” Monteverde said. “So I met him and saw that his story was beyond my fiction.”
With Barr, he rewrote the script. Now, the film would represent a very fictional version of the Colombian rescue of a few years before.
According to investigative journalist lynn packer, Ballard had long been seeking a broader platform for his and OUR’s activities. In 2013, he and a group of filmmakers sought funding from the conservative political commentator. glenn beck for a reality series that would depict the rescue of trafficked children. Although the series never came to fruition, some members of the production team made a documentary about Ballard, released in 2016 and called the abolitionists, that gave Ballard even more conventional legitimacy. Soon, she was speaking at organizations like Google.
But according to Erin Albright, A longtime advocate and adviser to anti-trafficking task forces, Ballard and OUR are not actually central to the international fight against human trafficking. “Most of the (anti-trafficking) field sees them as marginal,” she tells me. “They sell sensationalism… and raise funds.”
In 2018, when Monteverde was making his film, these criticisms were not part of the conversation. “I never in a million years imagined this would be political,” he said of the film, which would become a Ballard biopic, though it takes great liberties with the facts. After all, he says, “I saw the article (on child trafficking) in the mainstream media… I always thought this would be a movie where we all would come together.”
If this movie had been released soon after it was made, that might have happened. sound of freedom it was independently produced for $14.5 million and financed primarily by a group of Mexican backers, according to the filmmakers. But like many other projects, the film lost its distributor when Disney acquired 21st Century Fox in 2019. sound of freedom it stayed on the shelf until Provo, Utah-based Angel Studios picked it up in 2023, with a plan to release the film in theaters across the country.
Several critical things happened in the years between the end of the film and its arrival in theaters. In a series that began in 2020, Vice journalists ann whiting and Tim Marchman began an investigation of Ballard and OUR, uncovering “a pattern of image-polishing and mythology-building, a series of exaggerations that, taken together, are quite misleading.” In a subsequent report, they alleged that Ballard and his organization had engaged in “misguided missions, carried out in part by high-level realtors and donors, which appeared primarily to generate exciting video footage.” (Ballard has yet to respond to vanity fairRequests for Comments. Although a representative from Angel Studios initially proposed an interview with Ballard, they later said they were unable to reach him to set up a meeting.)
These reports were widely read and shared, but they were as often vilified as they were praised. That’s due to a second development: the QAnon set of conspiracy theories, which originated in 2017 and gradually gained mainstream notoriety in the years that followed. The “central falsehood” of the movement, as He New York Times In a nutshell, it states that “a group of Satan-worshipping elites running a child sex ring are trying to control our politics and media.”
Around the end of 2020, QAnon began using claims about child trafficking as an outreach strategy. As The New York Times As reported at the time, adherents began “flooding social media with posts about human trafficking, joining parent groups on Facebook, and engaging in hashtag campaigns like #SaveTheChildren,” later turning “the conversation to unsubstantiated theories about who they think is doing the trafficking: a cabal of nefarious elites that includes Tom Hanks, Oprah Winfrey and Pope Francisco.”