NGO joint statement calls Sound of Freedom oversimplified depiction of human trafficking
A group of non-governmental organisations have signed joint statement calling for audiences to be careful in how they interpret the film The Sound of Freedom.
“Shedding light on the issue of human trafficking is paramount, and while the movie Sound of Freedom aims to create awareness about trafficking, its portrayal perpetuates an oversimplified, dramatic depiction of rescue that reinforces outdated stereotypes,” the statement said.
“As a movement, we acknowledge the significant investments that were made to bring this movie to cinemas around the world, and we welcome critical conversations about human exploitation and suffering.”
“There is potential for weak narratives, however, to widen the gap between general knowledge and the actual complexities of human trafficking.”
The statement was drafted after roundtable discussions at the 2023 Asia Region Anti-Trafficking Conference, and informed by the voices of survivors and practitioners. The 41 signatories include Free the Girls and The Rain Collective.
The Sound Of Freedom tells the story of Tim Ballard, who claimed to have rescued children from human trafficking. It depicts him making his way into South America alone in order to conduct a rescue mission.
The film depicts Ballard’s rescue effort to extract children from human traffickers, a depiction the NGOs who signed the open letter say is misleading if interpreted as anything other than fiction.
The film has been taken up by conspiracy theorists and figures on the American right, with former US President Donald Trump calling it an “important” film and hosting a screening.
The Sound of Freedom made its way to Australia in August, having been picked up for distribution by theatre chains including Hoyts and Dendy.
For their part, Angel Studios, the production company responsible for The Sound of Freedom has published a blog post acknowledging that the film is fictionalised. The film’s blog also features a list of resources for viewers to learn more about the facts behind human trafficking.
Caroline Kitto is the Co-Director of non-government organisation Be Slavery Free. While she has not seen the film, she said there were valuable resources for people wanting to know about solutions to the problem of modern slavery.
“Every child, woman and man who has been trafficked and enslaved should be rescued,” Ms Kitto said.
“For some (very few) people, this is their mission in life. Our mission is to prevent this happening in the first place.”
Ms Kitto told Insights that anti-trafficking work was largely one of dealing with human trafficking at the legislative level.
“We can run an ambulance service at the bottom of the cliff and rescue those entrapped; we can build a fence at the top of the cliff to stop people falling over; or more importantly we can build new roads and paths so that no-one is in danger of being trafficked in the first place. Everyone can be part of that. That needs systemic changes.”
Bob Unanue is the President and CEO of Goya Foods and the film’s Executive Producer.
“Although Tim Ballard, played by Jim Caviezel, saved many children, his focus on the mission to save one child, Rocio, is like the parable of the Lost Sheep, where the Good Shepherd leaves his flock to find one lost sheep,” he said.
“Indeed, every life has value and purpose. The Sound Of Freedom brings this truth to light.”