What do you think? Is it, A compelling movie that shines an authentic light on one of the crucial criminal horrors of our time, or is it, A Superhero Movie for Dads with Brainworms? Described alternately as low-budget, dark, conservative, Christian, and action thriller, Sound of Freedom tells the story (parts of it true; others highly fictionalized) of a U.S. federal agent who goes undercover in Latin America to rescue two children who are victims of sex traffickers. A Summer 2023 blockbuster, the film is also very controversial, as the two reviews above suggest.
With something contentious like the Sound of Freedom, it’s wise to remain open minded and curious before making judgment. Asking questions with a respectful approach is one of the best ways to gather information and decide for yourself what you think, believe, trust, and value.
In this blog post, we’re going to provide some input from Krista Hull about the Sound of Freedom and child sex trafficking, in general. As Redeem & Restore’s Founder and Executive Director, Krista’s opinions carry weight. Hopefully, they’ll provide food for thought and broaden some perspectives.
“Yes,” Krista says, “Sound of Freedom is a movie and not a documentary.” While the filmmaker wants to relay an important message, he chose to do it by entertaining and using elements of excitement and danger. So, parts of the true story were downplayed, ignored, overemphasized, exaggerated, etc. Other portions were fabricated.
She agrees with some of the movie’s detractors on a number of issues, including the following:
• The two children spotlighted in the film are returned, in the end, to their father. However, with no follow-up provided, many viewers will infer that all’s well with the brother and sister. In fact, no victim of trafficking can return to a “normal” or better life without a strong support system.
• Sound of Freedom might promulgate the myth that sex traffickers are strangers to the victims. Just the reverse is true. Most victims are trafficked by people known to and close to them—family, friends, partners.
• Tim Ballard, the former U.S. federal agent portrayed in the movie, made mistakes along the way in his work with trafficking victims, as they have shared with some. He probably still makes mistakes as Founder and CEO of the nonprofit organization Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.) ; he’s only human, as Krista points out. What is important, however, is that he has made significant strides in fighting trafficking—missteps and all.
What Sound of Freedom seems to be doing well is getting the word out about a particularly heinous crime. People are talking about the movie in a big way, writing about it, and paying it forward (buying tickets for others to see it) The more aware society becomes of sex trafficking, the greater is its ability to fight it. “If it [Sound of Freedom] gets people stirred up, if it triggers people to see what they could do to help someone,” says Krista, then it has served a greater purpose. And that’s what she thinks is happening.
There are some who, having seen the movie, feel hopeless. We encourage those individuals to replace that hopelessness with action: gather more information on the whole subject of trafficking; use that new-found knowledge to articulate the problem to others; learn how to detect signs of trafficking; donate to and/or volunteer for organizations like Redeem & Restore that assist victims; host a presentation by victim advocates(like from RRC) at a community center or church.
While many of our baby steps seem small at the time, there is such power in the collective effort. Krista says, “We are just scratching the surface, trying to make a difference in some lives, and those lives matter. Even if it’s just one person.”
(As an important aside, Krista believes that child abuse is our number one crisis in the United States. It shatters individuals, she says, and leads to big problems such as suicide, drug addiction, more kids in the foster system, and more broken families. Broken people make even more broken people.)
~ Kimberly Hand