The director of Sound of Freedom granted an interview to Variety yesterday morning – and suggested a likely sequel. As the film prepares for international release, the director talked about shooting issues, silly rumors – and what the film means.
How Sound of Freedom has performed
For those who haven’t yet seen the film, CNAV has reviewed it before. It treats head-on the subject of international child sex trafficking, with a focus on Latin America. The film tells the true story of Tim Ballard, who left his job at Homeland Security Investigations and founded Operation Underground Railroad, an organization dedicated to stopping this traffic and rescuing as many of the children involved as possible. But Sound of Freedom treats not Ballard’s present work with OUR, but the case he worked that led to it. He rescued one little boy from Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Then when the boy said he had a sister still captive, Ballard determined to rescue her also. His travels took him to Colombia, where he conceived the notion of setting up a “sex tourist” attraction on an offshore island.
That operation didn’t recover this particular girl, but did yield the lead he needed to find her. Which he did – and he obviously laid his life on the line to do it.
Santa Fe Productions produced the film for $14.5 million. They “wrapped” in 2018 and had a distribution deal with Twentieth Century-Fox. But The Walt Disney Company, which bought Fox in 2019, shelved the picture. Santa Fe spent years getting their distribution rights back, then signed a distribution deal with Angel Studios. Variety reviewed the film then, and gave it a mixed review. Though they found the story riveting, they refused to accept it as actual fact.
The “hits” on a hit
The “hits” from the Hollywood establishment kept coming. Ushers, attendants, and other staff working for several theaters belonging to the American Multi-Cinema chain (the world’s largest) organized a sabotage campaign, most probably on the social medium Reddit. Movie patrons told tales of false announcements of sellout crowds, HVAC issues, lights left on during screening, false fire and other emergency alarms, and a few tales of erasure of the digital file of the film. (Today motion-picture exhibitors play a digital file, not an actual set of 35-millimeter or 70-millimeter reels.) But that campaign didn’t last, and no one mentions it anymore.
Today, the site The Numbers reports that Sound of Freedom has grossed $172.8 million since its July 4 release. Thus it has out-grossed three Walt Disney offerings: Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, Elemental, and Haunted Mansion. That’s an ironical result indeed, considering Disney’s shelving it and fighting to keep it on the shelf. In fact at present, Sound of Freedom has earned these honors:
- Ninth best domestic box-office revenue in 2023,
- Fourth top-grossing movie of all time based on real events,
- Fourteenth top earner of all time for dramatization, and
- Sixteenth top earner for all time in the thriller/suspense genre.
On July 15, Noah Berlatsky at Bloomberg panned it, saying it “rel[ies] on tired Hollywood tropes.” Most notably he mentioned the “Q-Anon conspiracy theory.” But Sound of Freedom “wrapped” before Q-Anon became a household name.
Director Alejandro Monteverde sat for an interview with Tatiana Siegel of Variety over the weekend. He first learned of the child trafficking problem in 2015, on network news. The day after he saw a segment, he started working on a screenplay.
But at first he intended telling a fictional story. That plan changed when Producer Eduardo Verástegui met Tim Ballard and learned his real-life story. Very likely that plan made the difference between success and failure. A fictional account probably would be dismissible as “relying on tired Hollywood tropes.” Not so a true-life story, with independent sources to back it up.
Apparently both Ballard and Jim Caviezel, who portrayed him, have mentioned at least one accusation the film did not detail. This involves a substance known as adrenochrome, which traffickers allegedly make from the blood of children whom they summarily execute, in a manner that does not bear description, but that they calculate will flood the child’s bloodstream with epinephrine (called adrenaline in Commonwealth countries) shortly before death. Adrenochrome is actually a real substance – it is oxidized epinephrine.
Researchers first thought it caused schizophrenia. “Gonzo” novelist Hunter Thompson recognized it as a hallucinogen, as did Anthony (A Clockwork Orange) Burgess. It might or might not be an elixir of youth – or maybe those in the child sex trade think it is.
Jim Caviezel the consummate trouper
That aside, Monteverde described Jim Caviezel in glowing terms, for a professionalism few directors ever see. Caviezel came in to shoot two scenes that they had to shoot, or they would lose the location – even though he was extremely nauseous at the time. Monteverde said of him that he was ready to die on set to make this film.
The director actually thought Sound of Freedom might gross not more than $5 miilion at opening, and $14 million for its entire run. In fact Sound of Freedom grossed $14 million on its opening day, then $19 million the following weekend. After that it grossed $27 million its second weekend – thirty-nine percent more. (It is still playing in 2,803 theaters nationwide.)
A Sound of Freedom sequel
And yes, Monteverde and Verástegui are in preliminary talks for a sequel. Any sequel would focus on Haiti – which has lately gotten some interesting attention. Readers of our Hillary Clinton Files will recall Dom Lucre’s charges that Hillary was involved in child trafficking in Haiti.
Whether Hillary Clinton is involved or not, Monteverde very nearly made Sound of Freedom about Haiti. He didn’t because he wanted to focus on Tim Ballard and why he left government. But: “Haiti was a big part of [Ballard]’s work,” so that would likely be the setting for a sequel.
Considering that Sound of Freedom has grossed almost twelve times its production budget (the marketing/promotion budget came from crowdfunding), a sequel would be a more than reasonable expectation. Now if Dom Lucre’s revelations are at all accurate, Santa Fe Productions will have to spend a large portion of their net on security. But that would be money, time, and effort well spent. The enormity – and scope – of the trafficking problem demand it.
Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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