By: Matt Townsend
How do we dispel the darkness in our world? By shining the brightest light possible.
Sound of Freedom shines a spotlight in one of the darkest corners of our world to expose the sad truth of child-sex trafficking, one of the fastest-growing industries in the world. More slaves exist in our world today than did when slavery was legal, many of them children.
This Angel Studio production is directed by Alejandro Monteverde and tells the true-life story of federal agent Tim Ballard (Jim Caveziel). As he is spurred on by his wife Katherine Ballard (Mira Sorvino), the agent gives up his job with the Department of Homeland Security. What was exceptional about this decision was that his resignation came just ten months before his pension began to help rescue trafficked children.
This true-to-life story begins with Roberto (Jose Zuniga), a loving and caring father to his young daughter Rocio (Cristal Aparicio) and his even younger son Miguel (Lucas Avila). A modelling scout discovers Rocio and is lured by the promise of money and opportunity. Naively, the father drops his children off for a talent training day in an apartment where parents cannot stay and watch. Roberto is instructed to pick up his children at 7 pm sharp. When he returns, the room is empty, and his children are gone. Traders have smuggled both in steel cargo containers. These siblings are condemned to a fate worse than death and the worst nightmare imaginable for any parent. When Ballard discovers the extent of the trafficking business, he unites with a former cartel member turned child rescuer, Vampiro (Bill Camp), to track down not only Miguel and Rocio but as many children as they can find consigned to the horrors of sex trafficking.
The key to good storytelling is show, don’t tell. Yet, how do you show enough of this nightmare to invoke the horror necessary in the audience’s hearts without falling into exploitation? Director Monteverde walks this tightrope perfectly, giving the audience enough to taste the horror without exploiting the very children we’re meant to empathise with. Not one false note is struck within the cast. Jim Caveziel gives a career-defining performance. Every teardrop, from actor to audience, is authentic and earned. The child actors here are second to none, making us feel their dread, loss, and hope. The soundtrack helps craft the tension, accentuating emotion without telling the audience how it must feel. If there is one gripe, it’s in the second act, which nearly loses momentum. It’s a minor gripe resigned to pace and editing that doesn’t derail an otherwise propulsive narrative.
Few films in life change the way you look at the world. An example could be Jaws, which changed how many entered ocean waters, implanting a fear of the unknown that even Shark Week couldn’t uproot. Sound of Freedom works similarly, opening one’s eyes to a secret world that seems all around, hidden in plain sight yet rarely talked about. Understand that this movie is not entertainment, it’s an education. More horror than thriller, this story never loses sight that its main objective is to mobilise its audience to awareness and action. That’s precisely what it accomplishes.
These days, modern audiences sit in their seats after the credits roll wondering if there remains a “can’t miss” post-credit scene. However, after this film, many audiences sat stunned, wondering, “What can I do?” This is one of those films that rips modern audiences out of ignorance and complacency. It puts us front and centre with one of the great horrors of the modern age. Many will leave the theatre stunned, emotional, tearful, heartbroken, heavy, and burdened. Yet, few will find it possible to leave unmoved. Though Sound of Freedom may not be one of the greatest films ever made, it may become one of the most important.
This story makes everyone consider what it would be like to see their child’s bed empty each night, knowing they had been condemned to a fate worse than death. Challenging us all to consider what must be done to see these children freed and reunited with their families.
This brings us back to our response to a film like Sound of Freedom? People need to spread the word about the horrific reality of human trafficking. It’s a real, growing problem that may be closer to home than is comfortable to consider.
Article supplied with thanks to City Bible Forum.
All images: Movie stills
About the author: Matt Townsend is the lead pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in King of Prussia, outside of Philadelphia. He is passionate about film and loves watching movies with his kids and dissecting their redemptive themes.