Anti-human-trafficking film ‘Sound of Freedom’ just topped ‘Indiana Jones’ at box office

Verastegui234112 Eduardo Verástegui speaks at the Vitae Summit in Vatican City on Sept. 1, 2022. | Courtney Mares/CNA

“Sound of Freedom,” an anti-human-trafficking film made by Catholic filmmakers Eduardo Verastegui and Alejandro Monteverde, had a massively successful opening day in which it reached No. 1 at the box office, beating out Disney’s fifth “Indiana Jones” installment and raking in $14.24 million.

“Sound of Freedom” had an overall production budget of $14.5 million and only played at 2,600 theaters on its July 4 opening day. Meanwhile, Disney’s “Indiana Jones” had a budget of $295 million, played at many more theaters, and brought in $11.69 million on July 4.

Speaking with “EWTN News Nightly”’s Tracy Sabol in a June 30 interview, Verastegui, who produced and acted in “Sound of Freedom,” said the purpose of the film was to raise awareness about the 2 million children exploited every year in the international sex-trafficking trade.

In the film, Jim Caviezel, known for “The Passion of the Christ” and “The Count of Monte Cristo,” plays Homeland Security agent Tim Ballard, who quits his job and puts his life at risk to embark on a dangerous journey through the Colombian jungle to save hundreds of children from sex traffickers. 

The film is based on a true story. In 2013, Ballard and several former government operatives left their jobs to found Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.), which works around the world and in conjunction with law enforcement to rescue children from slavery and exploitation.

Verastegui, a Mexican-born actor who is best known for faith-based films such as “Bella” and “Little Boy,” explained that he met Ballard and his team, consisting of former Navy SEALs, FBI, and CIA agents, in Los Angeles eight years ago.

“When they explained to me in detail what these children are going through …” Verastegui said, “The pain, the suffering of these children, of course on one hand I was very inspired by their work; on the other hand I was in shock, I was depressed, I couldn’t sleep for many days.”

Ballard told him of how many of the kidnapped children are being “raped 10 to 15 times a day” and that “after many years they open them and sell their organs.”

“He told me the U.S. is the No. 1 consumer of child abuse, No. 1 consumer of child sex. And Mexico is the No. 1 provider,” Verastegui went on. “I was in shock, and I asked him: ‘How come, if the United States is the most powerful country in the world, if you guys have the money, the intelligence, the technology, the army, the police, everything, how come we don’t finish this problem here?’ And he said: ‘Because it’s not a priority.’”

Ballard told him that even though his group could save thousands of children, something more was needed to help the millions of more children suffering around the world.

“I asked myself: ‘What can I do?’” Verastegui said.

As a filmmaker and actor, Verastegui said he has “a weapon of mass instruction and inspiration.”

Verastegui felt called to build a movement to end child sex trafficking.

“That’s when I realized I was called to make a movie, but not only a movie, I wanted to dedicate my life, along with Tim and many other soldiers around the world, warriors who are not afraid to fight, to eradicate child trafficking,” Verastegui said.

“We need a movement,” he said. “Why? Because then we can put pressure on government so this issue can become a priority. And when it becomes a priority, then together, society, government, entertainment, news media, we all together, we can end this terrible reality.”

The film was originally produced under 20th Century Fox and finished in 2018, but it was dropped after Disney bought the studio. Only after being acquired by the Christian “Angel Studios,” known for its TV show “The Chosen,” did “Sound of Freedom” finally make it into theaters.

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The film has had shocking success and resonated with audiences across the country.

Even Elon Musk took notice of the film, suggesting Angel Studios make “Sound of Freedom” available on Twitter.

To which Verastegui responded: “Thank you Elon, this is [a] great idea! God’s children are not for sale. Can’t wait for you to see the film. ¡Dios te bendiga hermano!”

In a June interview with CNA, Caviezel said that “Sound of Freedom“ “is the best film I’ve done since the ‘Passion of the Christ.’” 

“There’s good, there’s evil. But a big part of that evil is those that are sitting on the fence. And we have to make a choice,” Caviezel said. “Some are more leaning towards Jesus, more towards good, some are more leaning towards the evil, but they’re on that fence and that fence belongs to the evil one.” 

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“So, we have to make that decision,” Caviezel said. “And I love that about Tim Ballard. He’s a battle hero’s story.”

“God’s children are no longer for sale,” is a powerful line in the film, and Caviezel told CNA why he believes children are under attack, not just through child trafficking, as seen in the movie, but also through abortion. (According to the Guttmacher Institute, almost 1 million abortions took place in the United States alone in 2020.)

“The most vulnerable are under attack for one reason — children are the most innocent of humans,” Caviezel said.

According to a 2019 report from the Human Trafficking Hotline, California, Texas, Florida, Ohio, and New York rank at the top with the most cases. There are more than 350,000 children who go missing in the U.S. each year. Of those 350,000, it is estimated that roughly 100,000 are being trafficked.

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