Awkward facts about ‘Sound of Freedom’ movie

Sound of freedom promo

Lauded as the latest Christian blockbuster movie, Sound Of Freedom was claimed to be the number two movie in Australia last weekend by some enthusiastic supporters. After who wouldn’t want to see an action-packed Christian movie based on a true story about children being rescued from evil people? There is a real thirst for movies that put Christians in the hero roles.

And this would be a matter of congratulation, except for some awkward facts.

• “Fabian Marta, one of many individuals who helped fund the movie after Disney passed on distribution, was charged on July 21 with accessory to child kidnappingaccording to the Missouri Courts website, USA Today reports.  

• Tim Ballard, the controversial child rescuer depicted in the movie, has mysteriously left Operation Underground Railroad (OUR), the child rescue organisation whose work the movie is based on. Vice, which has been investigating OUR for years, has got hold of a letter circulating amongst employees claiming Ballard left the organisation after an internal investigation into an overseas trip.

• OUR has a history of exaggerating its role in uncovering child trafficking.

• Ballard has been sacked as CEO of Nazarene Fund, an organisation backed by US radio host Glenn Beck that claimed to rescue thousands during the fall of Kabul – but there’s little evidence they managed to do that. A charitable interpretation is that they raised money and chartered planes but were unable to carry out their intended mission.

• And then there’s the growing link with QAnon, admittedly after the movie was made five years ago. The idea of an international cabal trafficking a vast number of children around the world is a core QAnon belief. The mainstream QAnon version has the Obamas and the Clintons in the trafficking ring, which also involved the killing of children to extract Adrenochrome. a chemical compound produced by the oxidation of adrenaline. The QAnon theory is that children are kidnapped by satanists to harvest the drug. 

• Jim Caviezel, the actor who plays Tim Ballard in the movie, has endorsed this QAnon theory. Explaining why he was standing in for Ballard promoting the movie, he said Ballard was rescuing child victims of “adenrochroming”, which he also had seen evidence of.

• A real problem is an unrealistic picture of child exploitation – of kidnapping by strangers. As journalist Michael Hobbes, a specialist in reporting human trafficking, explains in the podcast You’re Wrong About trafficking is a serious issue, but the movie paints a false picture. ” I do feel like people need to be more aware of the fact that like the kind of thing that they’re talking about this movie like essentially does not exist. There’s all kinds of exploitation of poor people and poor children that happens all over the world. And migration patterns are a big part of it, but like children being kidnapped and taken on airplanes to other countries, like essentially doesn’t like there hasn’t really been a confirmed case of this by a stranger, right? People get kidnapped by their parents as part of custody battles all the time.”

An SBS report points out the danger in the film’s unrealistic portrayal of child exploitation “In Australia, Lina Garcia, the Senior Manager for the anti-trafficking response at the Australian Red Cross, told the Feed while information is limited, ‘generally, children and young people are more likely to be exploited by people they know, and not complete strangers.

“‘It might happen, not only in businesses and operations but also in the context of the family home. And I think that that is very important to highlight,'”‘ she added. Now, experts are concerned the hype around this film could actually prevent people from spotting the more common – actually foreseeable – warning signs.'”

It’s worth looking at recent cases of large-scale exploitation of children successfully investigated by local police. Here are a couple of examples

  1. 500,000 children in the Philippines were trafficked in a single year to produce livestreams and other sexually abusive content. They were not kidnapped and flown overseas in a OUR like situation. Instead the exploitation happened in their own country – and Australians took part online.
  2. An epidemic of extortion of teenagers, in ordinary Australian suburbs.
  3. The dark web shelters a network of offenders, who trade images of child abuse.

The International Justice Mission a reputable Christian group campaigns against modern slavery, and says two-thirds of that trade involves sex trafficking. They work with police and other on-the-ground local authorities, and yes, rescue children and young women. But they are not fighting a vast interconnected global cabal, but rather a depressingly large number of criminals that are not connected in the way Qanon suggests. The IJM are worth supporting, even though they don’t have a Hollywood movie and a vast amount of PR behind them.

One Comment

  1. Great to see a journalist not jumping on the “ain’t this the greatest thing since baby Jesus” bandwagon! I read an article a few months before the movie was due to come out which argues much the same and talked to an actual on the ground anti-child exploitation ministry in the US, which made the point that most of their work was done by phone and email, not raising around extracting children to an an emotional backing track!

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