Sound of Freedom: The True Story Behind the Movie
Sound of Freedom is a powerful film based on a true story. It depicts the remarkable journey of Tim Ballard, a former Homeland Security agent, as he battles against human trafficking. His relentless pursuit of justice exposes the dark underbelly of this global crime, leaving an indelible impact on the fight for freedom.
Warning: This article contains MAJOR SPOILERS for Sound of Freedom, in theaters now.
Sound of Freedom: The Reality Behind the Movie
Sound of Freedom is based on the real-life events surrounding the remarkable work of Tim Ballard, although it's important to note that the film takes certain creative liberties for storytelling purposes. Here are the key elements of Tim Ballard's journey that the movie centers on:
Tim Ballard embarked on numerous rescue missions throughout his career, both while working for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and later with his organization, Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.). The exact number of missions is not explicitly mentioned, but Tim and his team have conducted operations in various countries, rescuing numerous victims from the clutches of human traffickers. To this day, Tim continues to work in such spaces with organizations as CEO of The Nazarene Fund and an ambassador for The Spear Fund.
The decision to take on this mission independently stemmed from Tim's experiences and frustrations within the government system. As a Homeland Security agent, he encountered bureaucratic challenges and limitations that hindered his ability to rescue victims effectively. Driven by his passion for justice and his personal encounters with the horrors of child trafficking, Tim made the decision to establish O.U.R., a non-profit organization dedicated to combating human trafficking.
Funding and support for Tim's mission were primarily sourced through private donations and partnerships. Tim collaborated with individuals, organizations, and corporations passionate about the cause, leveraging their financial contributions to fund rescue operations, investigation efforts, and aftercare programs for survivors.
The outcomes of Tim’s missions have been significant, resulting in the rescue of numerous victims and the apprehension of traffickers. By working closely with local law enforcement agencies and leveraging intelligence gathered through covert operations, Tim and his team have played a vital role in disrupting trafficking networks and providing survivors with the chance to reclaim their lives.
While Tim's efforts have been widely applauded, he has faced some legal roadblocks along the way. Operating in different countries presents its own set of challenges, as legal systems and procedures may vary. Tim and his team have navigated through complex legal landscapes, sometimes encountering resistance from local authorities. However, their commitment to justice and cooperation with law enforcement agencies have helped overcome many obstacles, ensuring the successful execution of their missions.
It's important to note that the true story behind Tim Ballard's work is multifaceted and continues to unfold. While Sound of Freedom provides a glimpse into his journey, delving deeper into his real-life endeavors and the ongoing fight against human trafficking is crucial. Understanding the complexities of this crisis and educating oneself about the reality of child trafficking empowers individuals to make a difference. Watching the film and exploring reputable resources on the subject can serve as a starting point for anyone inspired to take action and contribute to the cause.
Who is Sound of Freedom's Tim Ballard?
Tim Ballard is a prominent figure in the fight against human trafficking. Tim began his career as a special agent for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Human Trafficking division.
Tim Ballard embarked on a undercover rescue mission while working for the government. He posed as a sex tourist to infiltrate a child sex trafficking ring in Cartagena, Colombia. This operation resulted in the successful rescue of multiple children and the arrest of several traffickers. It was a pivotal moment for Tim, among many others, and he realized the urgent need for a dedicated organization to combat human trafficking.
Inspired by this experience, Tim left his government position and founded Operation Underground Railroad. The organization works with law enforcement agencies worldwide to conduct rescue missions, gather evidence, and support the prosecution of traffickers. Tim's team consists of former law enforcement and military personnel who employ covert operations to rescue victims from brothels, slave markets, and other trafficking situations.
Sound of Freedom Characters
We’ve discussed Tim Ballard and we’ll discuss the little boy known as “Teddy” in greater length later. Here we’ll talk about some of the other characters in the film and their real-life counterparts.
Sound of Freedom depicts several characters helping Tim Ballard's character raise funds for rescue operations. In reality, most of the funds for the original operation in Colombia were provided by political commentator, author, and entrepreneur, Glenn Beck. The two remain close allies to this day and work together on The Nazarene Fund.
Katherine Ballard, the wife of Tim Ballard, is a remarkable woman who has played a significant role in supporting her husband's mission to combat human trafficking. She is a dedicated partner and mother who has stood by Tim's side as he tirelessly works to rescue victims and raise awareness about the issue. Katherine's unwavering support and love have undoubtedly provided Tim with the strength and encouragement needed to pursue his challenging and important work.
Rocío is the real-life sister of Miguel ("Teddy"). In reality, she was trafficked and then rescued only 24-hours after her brother was. In the movie, she is rescued in the jungles of Colombia after Tim’s character poses as a doctor offering humanitarian relief. As you’ll learn below, this jungle mission in real life didn’t result in the rescue of any children, but did give Tim and his team important information that advanced the search for a real-life child named Gardy.
In the film's opening scene, a character named Giselle, inspired by Kelly Johana Suarez, a former beauty pageant queen and model known as "Miss Cartagena," deceives a young girl and her brother. Suarez exploited her reputation in a poverty-stricken neighborhood to recruit children for sex trafficking, betraying their trust by selling them into the trade.
The character "Vampiro," also known as "Batman," is a real person, and most of his introduction in the film reflects his true story, except for his alleged time in jail. The real-life Batman has never been incarcerated. He also never solicited a 14-year-old prostitute. In reality, his relationship was with an adult trafficking victim, and it was her daughter's exploitation that inspired his involvement in the fight against trafficking. While Batman had a significant role in Operation Triple Take, he did not participate in the depicted Cartagena Operation. Instead, he led another mission in Medellín, Colombia on the same day.
One character in the movie, known as "Fuego," is based on a real person who was apprehended during Operation Triple Take (read more below.) As an undercover operative, Tim Ballard directly negotiated with Fuego. Fuego's choice of wearing a hat featuring Che Guevara, a symbol of Marxist revolution, intrigued Tim. Fuego brazenly declared, "Because I'm the revolutionary in selling girls."
What the Sound of Freedom Movie Changed from Real Life
All biographical movies add in cinematic elements to up the drama or smooth out plot details. There are many parts in the movie that are true! Let’s break down what was real and what was changed.
The Rescue on the Island: Fact
The movie portrays a dramatic raid on an island to rescue children trapped in a vast trafficking ring. In reality, this intense operation was part of a coordinated effort known as "Operation Triple Take" conducted by O.U.R. and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Colombia. The joint operation resulted in the rescue of 123 survivors, including 55 minors.
In the film, the raid near Cartagena is depicted where approximately 50 victims are rescued. While the movie focuses on child survivors, it is important to note that not all rescued individuals were minors in real life.
Prior to Operation Triple Take, Tim Ballard had already conducted operations in Haiti, Cartagena, and the Dominican Republic that same year. This operation marked the fourth major undertaking for Tim and his organization.
The successful outcome of Operation Triple Take earned it the distinction of being HSI's case of the year in 2015, referred to as "Clear Hope." This recognition highlighted the significance and impact of the operation in dismantling a dangerous trafficking network.
The Children in the Movie: Fact
Throughout the film, we witness the harrowing stories of various children who have fallen victim to sex trafficking. These characters are based on real individuals who have been rescued at different points in time. Among them, the character of Miguel holds a special significance.
In the movie, after Tim Ballard rescues Miguel, the young boy presents him with a dog-tag necklace inscribed with the name "Timoteo." This scene is true to the real story, as Miguel's sister had given him the necklace in the movie before they were separated. To them, the necklace symbolized hope for rescue and a better future.
In reality, this incident occurred while Tim Ballard was still serving as an HSI Special Agent, and the little boy indeed gifted him the necklace. The necklace featured a scripture reference from 1 Timothy 6:11 and the words "Man of God" engraved on it. It wasn't until Tim took the necklace home and showed it to his family that his son pointed out his name on it.
Tim knew this necklace, this message, symbolized a new calling for him. The moment he received the necklace, he knew he needed to dedicate his life to the rescuing of trafficked children.
Moreover, while Miguel's sister is a real person and was rescued only 24-hours after her little brother was found, the storyline in the film depicting Tim's unwavering determination to find "the one" is based on the true pursuit of a child named Gardy. The film encapsulates Tim's relentless efforts to locate missing children and bring them to safety.
We are happy to say that the people that Miguel and Rocío are based on were, in fact, rescued in real life and are safe and well today.
Tim Killed Someone: Fiction
There is a scene towards the end where Tim is shown killing a man to rescue a child. This depiction does not reflect reality.
Tim Ballard is committed to rescuing children from sex trafficking and sexual exploitation and operates within the boundaries of the law, collaborating with local authorities and governments to combat child trafficking.
Contrary to the portrayal in the film, Tim Ballard, has never taken a life. The film's depiction of Tim killing someone is purely fictional and does not align with the real events.
Tim Went Into the Jungle Alone: Fiction
In the film, Tim assumes the role of a doctor and ventures into a Colombian jungle to locate the sister of the young boy, following Operation Triple Take. In real life, Tim did lead a team of operatives who posed as doctors on a mission in a jungle along the border of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, a few years after Operation Triple Take, in their pursuit of finding Gardy.
Although no rescue operation took place during this mission, it significantly contributed to the ongoing search for Gardy. Furthermore, the dedicated operators were able to provide essential medical assistance to numerous children in need, leaving a positive impact on their lives.
The Movie Accurately Depicts Human Trafficking: Fact and Fiction
In the beginning of the film, real security camera footage is shown depicting various kidnappings. While such incidents do occur in the realm of human trafficking, it's important to recognize that they do not represent the majority. When we think of "sex trafficking," our minds often conjure up images of dimly lit foreign alleyways where vulnerable street children are abducted, exploited, and sold. While this is a horrifying reality, it's crucial to understand that sex trafficking is not limited to foreign countries—it is an alarming issue within the United States as well, and it is on the rise.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, reports of human trafficking have been documented in all 50 states (NCMEC, 2022). Predators can take on various forms, including soccer coaches, trusted teachers, neighbors, uncles, and aunts.
Furthermore, the film portrays children being held in shipping containers. It is worth noting that the movie took creative liberties in depicting the different methods of child trafficking. While instances do exist where children are transported in various vehicles, the majority of trafficking occurs through a manipulative grooming process. Sound of Freedom effectively portrays this in the child modeling scenes, where children (and sometimes their parents) are lured with promises of money, food, or affection, only to be exploited or trafficked.
The Real Life Crisis Behind Sound of Freedom
The importance of being aware of child trafficking as a crisis we are facing cannot be overstated. Sound of Freedom serves as a powerful catalyst, inspiring viewers to take action and demand change. This film shines a light on the harsh reality of trafficking and urges us to speak up and help whenever possible. To truly understand the urgency and impact, get your tickets to Sound of Freedom today and educate yourself about this critical issue. You can also Pay it Forward so that others who wouldn’t have the chance to see this film can watch it too. Together, we can make a difference.