The “Sound of Freedom” film packing out theaters right now is based on an incredible true story that portrays Tim Ballard’s journey from undercover federal agent to anti-child trafficking activist.
I saw the movie in a crowded theater on a Monday night in Findlay, Ohio. I was moved to tears, on the edge of my seat, and by the ending credits, I wanted to know what I could do to help end human trafficking.
“God’s children are not for sale.” That line delivered by Jim Caviezel, the “Passion of the Christ” actor who plays Ballard, stuck with me and the story of a brother and sister sold into sex trafficking was a gripping one to witness on the big screen.
The independent Eduardo Verástegui-produced film has garnered $45 million in its first seven days since being released.
So how much of it was true? Where did Angel Studios sprinkle Hollywood into the film shelved by Disney in 2018?
WARNING: SPOILERS CONTAINED BELOW
First, let’s talk about the true parts of the movie, then we’ll hit the fictitious parts via Tim Ballard, Angel Studios, and Operation Underground Railroad.
Tim Ballard was an undercover agent for the government: TRUE
Former CIA Agent Tim Ballard spent more than 11 years of his career, from 2002 to 2013, as a special agent for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, focusing on drug smuggling, money laundering, arms smuggling, and human trafficking. The majority of that time, Ballard investigated crimes against children including cases dealing with sex trafficking, child sexual tourism, and child pornography. He was a member of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. (via LinkedIn)
“The first few years it was mostly just end-user, collector, cases of people who are possessing, distributing child exploitation material, and always wondering, ‘Where are the kids?’ I see these videos, it breaks my heart, I gotta describe them. There’s a scene in the movie that breaks my heart where Jim is crying as he’s having to describe these horrific sex scenes of children, and when I say children, I mean average age, seven, six, five,” Ballard told The Daily Signal.
When the laws changed in 2006, Ballard embarked on his first undercover rescue mission in Cartagena, Columbia, posing as a sex tourist to infiltrate a child sex trafficking ring, which ultimately resulted in multiple children being rescued and several traffickers arrested — but it was a frustrating journey for Ballard, according to Angel Studios.
Tim quit his job to rescue children: TRUE
Ballard was working on two different cases in 2012 – one in Columbia, which is depicted in the film, and another in Haiti – when it all reportedly came to a head.
“I was told, ‘Come home,’ on both of them,” Ballard said. “They were both major cases, a significant hit against human traffickers would have taken place. … There I am, thinking, ‘They’re asking me to come home once again, and I’m not gonna do it. I’m gonna stay, and that means I have to quit my job.”
It was in 2013 that he left his government position and founded Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.), which employs former law enforcement and military personnel to combat sex trafficking by working with law enforcement agencies worldwide to conduct rescue missions, gather evidence, and support the prosecution of traffickers.
O.U.R. has reportedly been involved in more than 4,000 operations with 6,500 arrests and over 6,000 women and children rescued to date.