One of the summer’s surprise movie hits, the anti-child trafficking drama “Sound of Freedom,” continues to be among its most controversial.
The latest incident: 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 kidnapping, according to the Missouri Courts website.
The film stars Jim Caviezel as real-life former U.S. Department of Homeland Security agent Tim Ballard who is credited with saving countless children, largely from outside the U.S., from traffickers.
On its opening July 4 weekend, “Freedom” beat out Hollywood franchises such as “Indiana Jones” and has to date racked up $163 million in domestic ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo. That’s more than 10 times its reported production cost. The action movie is expected to make even more when it hits theaters overseas.
Shortly after its release, reports surfaced that Ballard had parted ways with the anti-trafficking group he founded, Operation Underground Railroad. The group has been the subject of critical reports by Vice News, which claims the group has a “long history of false claims.”
The movie’s star, Caviezel, has also generated buzz. During a podcast interview with former Trump administration advisor Steve Bannon, Caviezel mentioned “adrenochrome,” a hormone that QAnon adherents say global elites harvest from child victims as an allegedly life-extending elixir.
‘Sound of Freedom’:Why Jim Caviezel’s controversial child sex trafficking film is a hit
As the credits roll on “Sound of Freedom,” Caviezel appears as himself on the screen saying he hopes the film will be seen as “the ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ of 21st century slavery,” adding, “We believe this movie has the power to be a huge step forward toward ending child trafficking.”
Since the movie’s release, reports also have surfaced of patrons complaining that “Freedom” screenings have occurred with lights still on and air conditioning turned off.
The movie’s various controversies seem independent of its cinematic virtues. “Sound of Freedom” has a 69% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and a 99% audience score. Audiences gave it an A+ on CinemaScore.
In a largely positive review, Variety’s Owen Gleiberman wrote, “Let’s assume that, like me, you’re not a right-wing fundamentalist conspiracy theorist looking for a dark, faith-based suspense film … you needn’t hold extreme beliefs to experience ‘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.”
“Sound of Freedom” was shot in 2018 largely with funding from Mexican investors, according to a New York Times report. Its writer and director, Alejandro Monteverde, is from Mexico. The film was originally slated for release by 20th Century Fox, but Disney shelved the project when it acquired the studio in 2019.
Angel Studios then stepped in to distribute “Sound of Freedom.” The Provo, Utah-based company takes its name from the Silicon Valley term “angel investors,” individual contributors that support fledgling start-ups. The company said it raised around $5 million from thousands of angel investors, each of whom get a revenue share in the project, to market the film.