SOUND OF FREEDOM, US, 2023. Starring Jim Caviezel, Mira Sorvino, Bill Camp, Javier Godino, Jose Zuniga, Eduardo Verastegui, Cristal Aparicio, Lucas Avila, Yessica Borroto, Gustavo Sanchez Parra, Gary Basaraba. Directed by Alejandro Monteverde. 130 minute. Rated M (Themes of child sexual abuse).
An American drama based on child trafficking and the rescue operations by former federal agent, Tim Ballard, which took place in Colombia. In an interview, Ballard indicated that the screenplay dramatised his activities, some touches fictionalised. However, Ballard was able to give testimony to the American authorities and was influential in changing legislation about child trafficking in the US. Which means that this film, with its harrowing moments, is an earnest film about a contemporary evil – with a final comment about the number of men and women in slavery today, so many of them children, a greater number of contemporary slaves than when slavery was legal. Which means that this is an issue for ordinary audiences.
The film opens in Honduras, a little girl at home, beating a drum (and the final sequence of this film will be the little girl once again at home, beating the drum). What seems innocent at first, a young talent scout persuading a father that his little girl should come to an audition, along with her little brother, for some kind of future using her talent. He agrees and delivers them. But, we realise quickly that this is grooming, the children in all kinds of poses, photos taken, provocative, and the woman hurrying the children away so that when the father returns, the location is empty.
The introduction to Tim Ballard follows. A family man with a supportive wife and children, he is also an American agent, going undercover as a paedophile to infiltrate the trafficking rings.
It is alarming to see this kind of work. Information leads to rings operating out of Latin America, transporting of children to Tijuana or to Colombia. The drama becomes more personal when a paedophile trafficker is stopped at the US-Mexican border and arrested. The little boy from the initial story is rescued and tells the story of the disappearance of his sister. Ballard is moved by the story and wants to track down the sister.
Tim Ballard allegedly chose Jim Caviezel to portray him in this film. Many will remember Caviezel from Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ.
Ballard wants to resume pursuit of the paedophiles but his bosses are reluctant, so he resigns. What follows is more undercover work and the eventual rescue of around 50 children.
The action continues with an upcountry journey to the mountains, with Ballard accompanied by a former criminal who wants now to do good. They pose as doctors, travelling to a dangerous village, with scenes involving the production of cocaine. As we expect, the little girl is there and another dangerous rescue.
There are two aspects to note about the film. It was finished in 2018 and, for various business reasons, shelved. It was taken up for distribution by Angel Studios (Angel the name for the many contributors to crowd financing – and a huge list in the final credits). The studios are now working on a number of projects after their release of the Abraham-Isaac story, His Only Son. Production is underway on Cabrini, the story of St Frances Cabrini. Angel’s best known release is the television Gospel series, The Chosen.
The other aspect is the movie’s extraordinary box office success. It has been taken on by religious groups who are buying tickets for audiences. While the film has attracted controversy – many of its most enthusiastic supporters seem to have embraced a number of conspiracy theories – the film should be seen for its standalone drama and themes.
Heritage Films: Movies Change People
Released 24 August