Is Sound of Freedom a true story? Real events of action film, who is anti-sex trafficking activist Tim Ballard

Jim Caviezel plays a former CIA agent turned vigilante who takes on a Colombian sex trafficking ring

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Independent action film Sound of Freedom was released in the US on Independence Day weekend, and has now come to the UK. The film has proved a big hit so far, grossing more than $180 million off a $14.5 million budget.

The film follows former government agent Tim Ballard who decides to work outside the system when he learns that the sister of a boy he has rescued from child sex trafficking is still captive.

Ballard becomes a vigilante and embarks on a dangerous mission to rescue the girl and hundreds of other children from Colombian sex traffickers.

Jim Caviezel, who played Jesus in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, took on the role of Ballard, the hero of the film and founder of anti-sex trafficking organisation Operation Underground Railroad (OUR).

Sound of Freedom completed production in 2018 but was not released until this year as producers struggled to find a distributor due to controversies surrounding the subject matter and the film’s cast.  

Sound of Freedom follows a sting operation at a Colombian sex trafficking ringSound of Freedom follows a sting operation at a Colombian sex trafficking ring
Sound of Freedom follows a sting operation at a Colombian sex trafficking ring

Who is Tim Ballard?

Tim Ballard is, according to his own social media profiles, a former Department of Homeland Security special agent, and the inspiration for Sound of Freedom.

A self-styled abolitionist (there are more victims of slavery today than at any time in history), Ballard works to eradicate sex trafficking internationally. He is a Mormon and was involved in a two year mission to Chile.

In 2013 he established OUR and continues to be involved in its actions to rescue victims of sex trafficking. Ballard had nine children with his wife Kathrine, two of whom he rescued in a sting operation in Haiti and later adopted when he was unable to locate their birth parents.

Is Sound of Freedom a true story?

Sound of Freedom is a fictionalised account of a reportedly true story, although the reality the film represents has been questioned by some critics.

For instance, while Ballard has personally stated that he has a history of working with the CIA, this has not been confirmed. 

However, some of the basic facts in the film are true - for instance the epilogue explains that Ballard established the non-profit OUR to fight against child sex trafficking. Ballard did do this in 2013, and has since briefed a number of prominent politicians, among them former president Donald Trump, on the issue of sex trafficking.

Additionally, Ballard was involved in a raid on Colombian sex traffickers, the central plot of the film. In the interests of adding more excitement, certain plot details were changed or invented. In the movie, Ballard kills a trafficker, though this didn’t happen in real life. 

Sound of Freedom is a controversial film about child sex traffickingSound of Freedom is a controversial film about child sex trafficking
Sound of Freedom is a controversial film about child sex trafficking

Why is Sound of Freedom controversial?

The film has received backlash in the UK because the real non-profit founded by the film’s protagonist - Operation Underground Railroad - has been heavily criticised for the way it conducts stings, the lack of aftercare for victims, and rumours that it is connected with the QAnon movement

QAnon supporters subscribe to the conspiracy theory that Democrat politicians, Hollywood actors, and business tycoons are part of a shadowy cabal and paedophile network.

OUR has also been criticised for conflating consensual sex work with trafficking, and for mythologising and exaggerating its own role. However, the group is believed to have been involved in the rescue of 4,000 victims of child sex trafficking.

Sound of Freedom has also been controversial because of its star, Jim Caviezel, has been a vocal supporter of the QAnon conspiracy theory - he has also stated that he believes adrenochroming (draining children of their blood to use as an elixir of youth) is being practised internationally, despite no evidence to support this claim. 

To be clear, there is no direct link between Sound of Freedom and QAnon, and the film’s creators deny any such connection. However, there does appear to be a fair amount of overlap between the film's audiences and its leading man, and proponents of the conspiracy theory.

How can you watch Sound of Freedom?

Sound of Freedom was released in cinemas in the UK on Friday 1 September. The film is currently not available on any streaming platform. 

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