As co-writers and director of the movie Sound of Freedom, it has been difficult to watch controversy and partisanship distract, even a little, from the deep intention of our work: to use the power of film to bring awareness to the reality of child trafficking.
Way back in 2015, when we began researching and writing this project, we told each other many times, “If there’s one issue that can unite everyone, it’s ending child trafficking.” We still believe that. Child trafficking is not a conservative or a liberal issue. It is a fundamental human rights issue, one that strikes at our very core as human beings.
It is also a very difficult subject, and it is profoundly heartening that millions of people have gone to theaters to watch a movie about it. It is equally heartening that this audience spans the political spectrum.
A July 31 article in Newsweek reports: “A new study has found that Sound of Freedom is viewed favorably by the majority of both Republicans and Democrats.” That same Newsweek article begins, “The box office hit Sound of Freedom is hugely popular with Republican viewers, but perhaps surprisingly it has also struck a chord with Democratic moviegoers.”
Why should this be “surprising”? The movie, which stars Jim Caviezel and Mira Sorvino, was not made for Republicans or Democrats. It was made for human beings, because child trafficking is an issue whose moral imperative is obvious to the human heart.
And it is the issue itself that we must confront.
We must confront the fact that, according to the Department of Justice, America is among the largest consumers of child sexual abuse materials (CSAM), and that American money helps drive both domestic and international trafficking. We must confront and eradicate the sexual exploitation of children. We must confront the underlying societal issues and the criminal enterprises that render children susceptible to trafficking in the first place.
Awareness is the first step. You can gather information and statistics about trafficking from whatever sources you trust: The United Nations, the US Department of Homeland Security, your state and local law enforcement, or any of the many private anti-trafficking groups doing important work.
The facts will disturb you. If you’re so moved, consider finding ways to support the large and growing network of organizations — both private and governmental — dedicated to confronting human trafficking worldwide.
These problems are enormous, and their solutions will require political engagement — with all the complexity and discord that this entails today. But we cannot let our divided politics prevent us from doing the work necessary in the ongoing fight to end child trafficking.
Everyone who has seen Sound of Freedom knows that the movie itself is not in the least political. It is based on the story of a real person, Tim Ballard, who quit his job at Homeland Security to rescue trafficked children. In the development, research, and writing of the story, we don’t recall a single conversation with Tim about politics. Why? Because personal politics should be irrelevant when you are rescuing children from human trafficking.
For a variety of reasons, Sound of Freedom is being called “faith-based” or a “Christian thriller.” Depending upon your view, the term “faith-based” is either a badge of honor or permission to discount the work offhand. But why the need to label a film in the first place? We made Sound of Freedom for people of faith, people with no faith, and everyone in between — because trafficking is an issue that matters to everyone.
The movie has also been unjustly associated with certain extreme conspiracy theories. We wrote the movie in 2015 and shot it in 2018, well before anyone involved had ever heard of such theories. It is therefore literally impossible for the movie to reference these theories, and anyone who has seen the movie knows it does not. In fact, NPR, Rolling Stone, and just about every other media outlet that has written about the movie, either positively or negatively, has made it clear in their stories that Sound of Freedom itself doesn’t contain any references to conspiracy theories. We took our inspiration from actual events, many of which were reported by major media outlets at the time.
Did we compress the time frame of Tim’s actual story and adjust certain events for creative reasons? Of course. This was never intended to be a documentary. As the Los Angeles Times wrote: “As with just about any film ‘based on a true story’ — there have been questions about the accuracy of its depiction of the real-life Ballard, whose organization Operation Underground Railroad claims to have saved hundreds of victims to date. On balance, though, Sound of Freedom directed and co-written by Alejandro Monteverde, and co-starring Mira Sorvino and Bill Camp, tackles a brutal if uncontroversial topic: Everyone agrees that the exploitation of children is a horrific crime that must be stopped.”
That, to us, is the bottom line. When the movie rolls, we trust that clear-eyed viewers will agree with the LA Times and see the work for what it is. Many millions already have.
We understand that everyone, including those of us who made the movie, have different perspectives on many issues. We made Sound of Freedom in a sincere effort to unite people around a fundamental human rights issue. No single interest group owns the issue of trafficking. We all own it, because it is happening in the world we all share.
The question is what we will do about it – all of us.
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