The Sound of Freedom: Pros and Cons
Last month I attended a screening of The Sound of Freedom. This is promoted by Angel Studios as, “Based on the gripping true story of a man’s mission to rescue children from the darkest corners of the world. This action-packed drama shines a light on the harrowing reality of sex trafficking and the valiant efforts of those who work tirelessly to combat it.”*
The movie portrays the life of Tim Ballard, founder of Operation Underground Railroad (OUR Rescue), an organization that fights against child trafficking. Part of their “about us” specifies, “We lead the fight against child sex trafficking and sexual exploitation around the globe.” There has been controversy surrounding OUR Rescue over the years and how they handle situations. OUR seems to have done a lot of good around the world, helping thousands of victims and they talk about their aftercare programs located in many nations which is vital.
As I left the theater I chatted with those whom I had attended about the heartache and pain the victims experienced. To say this film wrecked many people emotionally is an understatement. I still have people seeking me out to let me know how difficult of a film it was to stomach, figuring out how to process it, and how they can help.
And while it is good to see something like this to open our eyes, there are a few things that I have concerns about.
(Child sex trafficking) already surpassed the illegal weapons trade, 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.
First, let’s look at the positive points.
-This movie raised awareness about the plight of child trafficking in other countries.
-It takes guts and determination to stick it out in this fight, and I appreciate that Ballard has given his life to combatting this injustice and this movie celebrates that level of dedication.
-You have to go about this as a team rather than as an individual, and this was displayed to a degree on screen.
-This film has indeed sparked interest and conversation regarding trafficking.
The majority of us will find it hard to relate to Ballard. The majority of us are not former FBI agents who have the skills to run into South American jungles with ear pieces, guns, and money to rescue exploited children. Most of us work 9-5 jobs, trying to make ends meet, and simply make it through the day. The Sound of Freedom is plucking the heartstrings of many, and a lot of people are now stuck in a place of feeling completely helpless in what to do next. This film portrayed that the best way to get involved is to buy tickets and promote the film to raise awareness about the issue of child trafficking.
Fact vs. Fiction
The movie did specify that there is hope, and encouraged people to not stay in a place of sadness…but when you’re fed the horrors of an injustice in a 2 hour movie, a few minutes’ message at the end won’t be what’s recalled.
If you take a gander at OUR Rescue’s page about the film, you can read about what was fact and what was fiction in the movie’s storyline… But the problem is a lot of people don’t even know to look for that. Thus, most movie viewers walk away from the film assuming all of it to be factual since it’s “based on a true story.”
I don’t want The Sound of Freedom to be the next Taken. Taken is a great film, but it put human trafficking in a specific light, and people bought into it as fact. We need to know what is fact vs. fiction. And while OUR Rescue shows that on their website, I think it should have been made more clear in the film. If raising awareness is your primary goal, you need to show the realities rather than sensationalizing it. People need facts not dramatization.
The Reality Is…
Guaranteed, they have brought a basic awareness to the plight of human trafficking happening in our world…but The Sound of Freedom focussed on the overseas, the fantastical, and the sexy.
Fighting sex trafficking should never be shown as a short-term, exotic mission. The reality is it’s hard work, stressful, and dealing with trauma is NEVER pretty. Holistic anti-trafficking work is not just the moment of “rescue”; it’s the long journey of recovery and restoration afterwards as well.
When you’re bringing awareness to an injustice like sex trafficking you have to be extremely careful of the message you’re presenting. For years I have been saying I want to see people who are truly committed to this fight, who aren’t willing to simply give up a month of their life, but decades. People who would be willing to intercede every week for the rest of their lives, fight for a law to be changed until it’s actually changed, raise awareness not just by seeing a movie but looking at the ins and outs of human trafficking, or get the necessary training to become a counselor so they can walk with someone through trauma.
Anti-trafficking organizations in the US have been trying to talk about how close to home this issue is for a long time. Yet, once again, we have a film that only focuses on the foreign aspect, when we have this exact problem on our doorstep. We need to be mindful of both and have people who are fighting this injustice locally, nationally, and abroad.
So, I have a question for you. What is your portion? What is God inviting you to do about the problem? Are you called to the temporary or the long term? Is your portion to pray, to give, to go?
Don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t have the ability to do long term work in this area. If The Sound of Freedom stirred your heart for this injustice, but you don’t have a lifelong calling to serve in this area, that’s ok! Instead of starting little projects here and there, look into ways you can support the long term workers in the field. Often, emotional highs inspire us to start new initiatives or projects that don’t actually pan out or lead to long term change. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Support those who are already doing the work!
Research. I can’t say this enough. We rely so heavily on one vein of media to spoon feed us all of our information, but we need multiple voices to get a whole picture. Educate yourself through a variety of websites, podcasts, books, events etc to really know what is going on. Many people want to fight against human trafficking, but they’re not willing to spend the time figuring out what is actually happening and why.** When you’re educated and up to date on the issues, you know what to do when a potential trafficking situation crosses your path…and that can make all the difference!
At the end of the day, we need to realize that we can’t do this to feel better about ourselves…we can’t do this work in order to fill a void, or make us feel like we’re making a difference. We must enter this work with a heart willing to do whatever our portion is, nothing more and nothing less.
If we all do our portion we can make a difference.
**Check out these organizations and what they’re doing to fight against human trafficking: