Some Trafficking Survivors Say 'Sound of Freedom' Is Far From True

The film "Sound of Freedom" has earned more than $100 Million at the Box Office. But some trafficking survivors say the movie gets many things wrong.

The summer hit "Sound of Freedom" is billed as the real-life story of former Homeland Security agent Tim Ballard and his efforts to battle child trafficking.

But some survivors say what the movie depicts is far from reality and could give audiences a false impression of trafficking.

"Trafficking looks a lot different," says survivor Jose Alfaro, who also is an expert on child trafficking. "More times than most, it's happening to communities of people that most people don't care about. It's those living in poverty, it is people of color, it is the LGBTQ community."

Chris Ash of the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking says films such as “Sound of Freedom” — and before that, “Taken” — give the wrong impression about trafficking.

"We lose sight of how it actually happens. We introduce elements that aren't true," Nash says. "We create narratives that are actually going against a lot of the work that people with lived experience and (those) working in the field have been pushing back against for decades."

Hollywood tends to glamorize the actions of one "superhero" in films about traffickers of children, says Alfaro. In reality, it's a complicated system of law enforcement, criminal trials and traumatized survivors who struggle for years to recover.

"This film, and many other films that are sensationalized ... It's savior trauma porn," Alfaro says. "People love that. People want to feel like, 'I could be a superhero,' or they love to hear stories about people being superheroes."

Rolling Stone culture writer Miles Klee gave "Sound of Freedom" a negative review, saying the movie misrepresents reality.

"It doesn't understand how arrests and plea deals and things of that nature of work. It is invested in this story of this guy Tim Ballard," he says. 

"And he basically becomes (an) international espionage guy, just totally unsanctioned by the U.S. government," Klee says. "So in a sense, the movie is not interested in how these things get done or how people get prosecuted or funneled into the system."

Instead, the film suggests "you actually have to go down there, and you have to be kicking down doors and arresting these guys just basically on no authority but your own," Klee says. 

Ash wants wants moviegoers to understand that they are watching an enhanced, fictionalized story about the world of trafficking. And that reality is far, far different.

"A two-hour movie about someone who's a trafficking victim sitting around, struggling internally with whether ... they should leave or stay, that's a really boring film," Ash says.

To better educate themselves on the real issues of trafficking, Ash suggests people check out websites such as Love146 and Freedom Network USA.

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