A movie made possible partly by crowd funding, backed by a small, independent studio, and dealing with a disturbing subject – child trafficking and sexual abuse – is now expected to top $40 million in ticket sales in its first week in the U.S..
‘Sound of Freedom’ is based on the true story of Tim Ballard, a U.S. Homeland Security Investigations operative, who founded Operation Underground Railroad to fight against child sex trafficking and sexual exploitation.
Ballard is played by Jim Caviezel, who last made a big impact in ‘The Passion of the Christ’, and the story follows the former agent’s journey on a dangerous mission to save the sister of a little boy he has already rescued from pitiless child traffickers.
In the film, Ballard journeys deep into the Colombian jungle, risking his own life to free the little girl, driven by his conviction that “God’s children are not for sale”.
But the movie aims to tell more than a personal story – it seeks to raise awareness on this harrowing issue, and given its surprising success, it may well succeed in its mission.
Elon Musk has announced that the film will released on Twitter in mid-July, though details of how that distribution might work for a European audience have not yet been made publicly known.
Angel Studios says that that after the success of the July 4th launch – where ‘Sound of Freedom’ matched box office sales with the major movie studio production, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny – their movie continued this momentum.
“Sound of Freedom has taken on a life of its own. We’re getting messages from all over the country telling us about packed theaters, sold-out theaters, and spontaneous standing ovations for the film in numerous locations,” the studio said in a statement.
They attributed the “surging demand” to “incredible word-of-mouth” promotion, said Brandon Purdie, Head of Theatrical Distribution at Angel Studios – who say they make films that ‘amplify light’, and who were responsible for the faith-based hit series, ‘The Chosen’, in the past two years.
The official trailer says that child sex-trafficking is the ‘fastest-growing international crime network that the world has ever seen”, passing out the illegal arms trade and catching up with the drugs trade.
“You can only sell a bag of cocaine one time – a child, five to ten times a day,” is the chilling claim central to the movie.
CBN News says that Ballard’s Operation Underground Railroad organization “has helped rescue at least 6,000 survivors and arrest more than 5,000 involved in the crimes.”
The film has been endorsed by high-profile figures such as producer Mel Gibson and MMA promoter Dana White who announced he was buying tickets for all UFC employees.
Passion of the Christ director Mel Gibson has urged people to watch the Sound of Freedom movie, which exposes human trafficking, at the theatres. Jim Caviezel, the actor who played the role of Jesus in the Passion movie plays the main role in this movie, which is produced by… pic.twitter.com/nM11cq0LtS
— Sachin Jose (@Sachinettiyil) July 2, 2023
Sound of Freedom continues getting massive momentum, now with Dana White buying tickets for all UFC employees!
— Cernovich (@Cernovich) July 9, 2023
Industry magazine Variety described the movie as an “unlikely box office savior”, reporting that “the faith-based movie about child sex trafficking has collected an impressive $40 million after six days of release.
“Sound of Freedom” was originally set at 20th Century Fox and was completed in 2018 before Disney acquired the studio the following year and shelved the film.
It’s now being distributed independently by Angel Studios, which recently released this spring’s Old Testament-inspired “His Only Son” and spent $15 million on the Caviezel-led action-thriller.
The Utah-based Angel Studios used other unconventional efforts to promote the film, including an app that allows people to buy and then donate tickets to those who can’t afford the price of admission.
About $2.6 million of opening day sales were earned through the “Pay It Forward” app, which the company framed as a way to raise awareness about child trafficking.
The film’s director, Alejandro Monteverde, said he felt called by God to create ‘Sound of Freedom’ – and that he has suggested to his friend, and the film’s producer, Eduardo Verástegui to “run for president” so that the fight to end child sex trafficking would continue.
Verástegui told the Christian Post that he wishes to “put pressure on the government so these things become a prime priority, not just for the government, for everyone.”
“What really hurts me the most is that the people who are doing this to these kids are human beings like you and me, made of the same. This is not people who are coming from other planets that are our enemies. This is people like us. So, in what moment, what happened to these guys?” Verástegui added.
“They were kids at some point full of dreams. So, what happened in what moment they decided to, ‘You know what? I’m going to use my life to hurt kids.’
Angel Studios said that they hoped at least two million people would attend the film to honour of the two million children who they say are currently the victims of child sex trafficking.
TIME TO 'WAKE UP': Jim Caviezel stars in a new faith-based film exposing the truth about child trafficking and prompting a crucial call to action for Americans.https://t.co/JEslTI7gPt pic.twitter.com/ZlAGGbxnNt
— Fox News (@FoxNews) July 9, 2023
Variety says that critics have been “mostly positive” toward the film, which has garnered a 77% rating on Rotten Tomatoes from critics – and an impeccable 100% rating from audiences.
Variety chief film critic Owen Gleiberman praised “Sound of Freedom” as “a compelling movie that shines an authentic light on one of the crucial criminal horrors of our time, one that Hollywood has mostly shied away from.”
His fellow critic, Jorge Rivera Rubio, said that ‘Sound of Freedom’ strikes “the difficult balance between being entertained while telling an important true story on a subject that should be shouted from the rooftops”.
While some platforms have sought to claim the film is “stoking QAnon conspiracy theories”, it is certain that the movie is bringing attention to the deeply disturbing trafficking and abuse of children – a glimpse into what Gleiberman called the ‘heart of darkness’, and perhaps a call to take action.
“Sound of Freedom is a riveting film that shares the story of one man’s heroic efforts to rescue children from human trafficking,” said Angel Studios chief executive, Neal Harmon.
“Through this powerful cinematic experience, we aim to amplify the growing movement to expose this heinous violation of human rights and inspire people to take action, helping their communities put an end to this modern-day slavery once and for all.”
For lead actor, Jim Caviezel, the movie is seen as a threat because the scale of the abuse is so enormous.
“300,000 children under the age of 18 were lured into the sex trafficking business in the United States. We are the biggest consumers of child trafficking and pornography in the world. The United States — the home of the free, land of the brave. This is ridiculous,” he said.
Tim Ballard told Dr Jordan Peterson in the last week that Elon Musk is helping with a Twitter release in mid-July but details have not yet been released in that regard.
— An Nguyen (@Liftingnreading) July 10, 2023
Dr Niamh Flanagan of Maynooth University said in January that “Ireland is acknowledged to be a destination, source and transit country for victims of child trafficking, and has been found to not fully meet minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, little public or political attention is paid to the issue of child trafficking.”
“It remains largely hidden and unknown. Globally, one in three victims of trafficking are children and across our soft border in Northern Ireland, one in six victims of trafficking are children. However, for two years the Republic of Ireland has failed to identify any child victims of trafficking. This is not because this heinous crime is not perpetrated in Ireland,” she said.
“Indeed, Tusla have enumerated suspected cases, and EU Experts concluded that that the absence of identified victims does not reflect the reality of the situation in this country. Rather the country has failed to identify victims because, the system for identifying victims is believed to have “ground to a standstill”, and Ireland lacks the tools and procedures necessary to identify child victims.”