14 JEWISH WORLD • AUGUST 11-17, 2023 political demons—former President Donald Trump. But they prefer to put down the concerns “Sound of Freedom” raises about child traf- ficking to the paranoia and extrem- ism of a vast swath of the public that they still think of as “deplorables.” T he truth about the film and the story it tells has been largely obscured by the furious commen- tary it has engendered. Though efforts have been made to besmirch Ballard by those seek- ing to hurt the film, he is someone who has dedicated his life to track- ing down those who profit from child pornography and then seek- ing to rescue children who have been trafficked. While his story has been adapted, as is the case with many movies to create an easily un- derstood and more dramatic narra- tive, the film is by no means dis- connected from the truth. The result is a picture that is com- pelling but still in many ways, a conventional true crime story/ac- tion-adventure thriller. Though the basic premise concerns the most shocking and disturbing crimes imaginable, the audience is, thank- fully, never directly confronted with them. Instead, much like films of an earlier era when violence and sex were implied rather than thrown onto the screen, “Sound of Free- dom” only hints at the horrors of the trafficking of children. Indeed, a New York Times review seemed to disparage it for pulling its punches when it comes to explicit depictions of such terrible things and wondered if it stemmed from filmmaker Ale- jandro Monteverde’s “scrupulous- ness” or “lack of inspiration.” What is completely missing from “Sound of Freedom” are the ele- ments that skeptical audience mem- bers primed by the negative ac- counts about conspiracy-mongering and extremist-adjacent narratives to expect: antisemitism or anything re- sembling a political agenda. Despite the sensational nature of the commentary about the film, there are no identifiably Jewish characters nor are any of the vil- lains (and the bad guys in “Sound of Freedom” are among the most loathsome to be found in any movie that doesn’t depict genocide) shown as having any characteris- tics that might link them to Jews or any other usual object of conspira- torial fears. One element that is indisputably part of its outlook is something that some in the film industry find almost as disturbing as sex crimes: faith. Both the main character and his associate speak of their faith in religion as motivating them to risk their lives, and in Ballard’s case, also his career at DHS, in order to rescue enslaved kids. Though even there, the religiosity is ecumeni- cal. Other than the fact that a Cath- olic medallion of St. Timothy plays a role in the plot, the identity of the faith of those shown is merely implied. Still, the film’s catchphrase: “God’s children are not for sale,” understandably resonates with audiences. But incredibly, it also seems to have made some in the liberal commentariat wonder if this is some kind of dog whistle to extremists. The only actual evidence of ex- tremism concerns the utterances of the film’s star. Ballard is portrayed by Jim Caviezel, a veteran actor best known for his portrayal of Je- sus in Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ,” and whose intense perfor- mance carries the film. Something of a loose cannon, he appeared once at an event that was linked with QAnon. He has also spewed some actual conspiracy talk about “Rothschild bankers” and claims that the blood of murdered children is trafficked, something that can be analogized to traditional blood li- bels against Jews, though Caviezel has never made that link. If one thinks that actors who say such things should be boycotted, that is a plausible rationale for avoiding “Sound of Freedom.” However, if you’re going to take that position, consistency would re- quire a boycott of films or shows of actors who support Palestinian blood libels against Jews. Given the scores of actors who have signed BDS and anti-Israel peti- tions falsely accusing the Jewish state of apartheid, anyone who ad- heres to that position isn’t going to be able to see many current movies or television shows. P art of the effort to align “Sound of Freedom” with extremists is the assertion of the film’s produc- ers that major studios sought to suppress it. But the charge holds up. The film was produced under the aegis of the Latin American di- vision of 20th Century Fox films. When that company was bought by Disney, it shelved the film. Giv- en the woke turn that the company has taken in recent years, it doesn’t require much of a leap of imagina- tion to think that both the content and the religiosity of the film led to that decision. “Sound of Freedom” only reached the theaters this year because those involved in its production managed to buy it back from Disney. It then only saw the light of day because the indie studio Angel crowdsourced the funding, raising $5 million from several thousand investors who be- lieved in the project. But what is most objectionable about the effort to take down the movie is the idea that it is sensa- tionalizing or in some way promot- ing a concern that isn’t real. While no one claims that child trafficking isn’t a horrible crime, the fact that QAnon—an amor- phous group with a miniscule fol- lowing but enormous media cov- erage from liberal outlets—talks about the subject seems to have rendered it out of bounds for sup- posedly right-thinking people. That’s in spite of the fact that when the movie was in production five years ago, nobody had ever heard of them. What makes the issue of mass abuse of children even more im- portant today is that the virtual open southern border of the United States as a result of the policies of President Joe Biden has facilitated its increase. Ironically, many on the left screamed bloody murder over the alleged abuse of children during the Trump administration and its policy of separating families that crossed the border illegally. That practice had existed under the Obama administration, but it only generated negative coverage when it could be blamed on Trump. What those critics have failed to ac- knowledge is that many of those kids were not actually with their parents but were being taken over the border by those who traffic in illegal immigrants. This trade in human beings is run by the Mexican drug cartels that largely control that side of the bor- der, and it is to be expected that a lot of those children who are being spirited into the United States are forced to work in terrible condi- tions with some being abused. Suffice it to say, it ill-behooves those who are deliberately turning a blind eye to the humanitarian cri- sis at America’s southern border because they either favor open bor- ders or don’t want to hurt Biden’s political prospects to also denigrate a film that seeks to draw attention to the issue of child trafficking. Removing political blinders, it’s clear that the movie is neither an- tisemitic nor an attempt to promote a conspiracy theory and deserves the large audience it is getting. Buying a ticket to a movie isn’t going to solve the problem, but as the film’s post-credits appeal by Caviezel states, it hopes to contrib- ute to raising awareness of it. Hav- ing seen it myself, I can attest that though it’s not a cinematic master- piece, it is a gripping and moving film that leaves audiences deeply affected. That, and not because hundreds of thousands of Ameri- cans are supposedly QAnon fans or even “QAnon-adjacent” is why the word-of-mouth marketing for “Sound of Freedom” is succeeding so spectacularly. Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of Jewish News Syndicate. . The lm’s catchphrase, ‘God’s children are not for sale,’ has some in the liberal media wondering if it’s a dog whistle to extremists. Promo for “Sound of Freedom,” starring Jim Caviezel. Film continued from page 9