© 24 Bilder Film GmbH

Sound of Freedom
U.S.A./Mexico 2023

Opening 9 Nov 2023

Directed by: Alejandro Monteverde
Writing credits: Rod Barr, Alejandro Monteverde
Principal actors: Jim Caviezel, Bill Camp, Cristal Aparicio, Javier Godino, Lucás Ávila

The sound of freedom is a sound like no other, particularly when sung by children. “It's (child sex trafficking) already surpassed the illegal weapons trade,” says our protagonist “and soon it will surpass the drug trade. Do you know why? You can sell a bag of cocaine once. A 5-year-old child, you can sell them 5-10 times a day, for 10 years straight.”

Mexican director Alejandro Monteverde’s newest film, Sound of Freedom, tackles a hornets’ nest of a topic, the rampant international trafficking of human beings. Focusing on two stolen children for dramatic effect, and a network of like-minded individuals and law enforcement’s masterful sting, the film’s real-life source is Tim Ballard. A former US government agent, Ballard founded the anti-sex trafficking non-profit Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.) in 2013.

Tegucigalpa, Honduras: When famous model Giselle tells the poor Roberto (José Zúñiga) his children have modelling potential he agrees to the photoshoot, leaving Miguel (Lucás Ávila) and Rocío (Cristal Aparicio) with Giselle / Katy (Yessica Borroto Perryman) and told to return at 19:00. Imagine his horror at finding the “office” empty. Calexico, California, USA: Homeland Security special agents Tim (Jim Caviezel—Ballard’s choice) and Chris (Scott Haze) complete an operation arresting 288 pedophiles, albeit they found no kids. “This job tears you apart,” Tim tells his boss to get time off. He meets Oshinsky (Kris Avedisian), schmoozes and finds Miguel, now eight years old; Tim learns about Rocio. Flashbacks provide details. Kathleen (Mira Sorvino) and Tim discuss how they would feel if one of their children were taken.

Cartagena, Colombia: Jorge (Javier Godino) takes Tim to a former cartel accountant, Vampiro (Bill Camp). Evaluating one another, Tim explains, “Because God’s children aren’t for sale.” Wealthy Pablo (Eduardo Verástegui) helps set up Piraña (Jairo Ordoñez) to launch the enterprise. Bogotá, Colombia: Katy, Fuego (Manny Perez) and Adolfo (Carlos Gutiérrez) almost salivate hearing the deal—finally, the big time. Something is off kilter. Hence, “the crazy gringos” gamble, risking everything they hold dear.

The cast is compelling, particularly Ávila and Aparicio and the other youngsters. Gorka Gómez Andreu’s cinematography meets the challenges of the many locations/scenes and Brian Scofield’s editing is prudent. Javier Navarrete’s unusual mix of distinctive yet disparate instruments euphonic/cacophony sounds create a stirring, suspenseful, and atmospheric score.

Intertitles before end credits have facts/statistics regarding the lucrative 21st century slave trade. Then Jim Caviezel does an infomercial promoting the film and about the production company’s “pay-it-forward” plan to increase attendance. Sound of Freedom’s popularity was unforeseen; this incongruousness has set tongues wagging. Instead of concentrating on the very real threats and horrors the film addresses, some squander words picking at the political affiliations of individuals involved in the film, which is a disservice to all. (Marinell Haegelin)

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