This is not a movie review.
You cannot, after all, review a movie you haven’t seen.
My problem is that I want to see a movie, and I’ve been stymied at almost every attempt.
This independent movie is exactly the sort of film our art houses in Philadelphia like to showcase, but have let it off their schedule.
The film is only playing on the outskirts of the city. I don’t drive, so I’d have to take a bus, another bus and then walk a half mile to get there. Other options involve an even more circuitous route.
I reached out to a local film institute to see if they were screening the film. I was invited to the “pink carpet” premiere of the Barbie movie, but no, they aren’t going to show the film I want to see.
This film has become a phenomenon in conservative circles, which is another reason why a lot of the art houses and chains are resistant to appearing supportive of its message.
The movie is “Sound of Freedom,” and it is based, somewhat loosely, on the life story of Tim Ballard.
Ballard was a former agent with the Department of Homeland Security who left his job to try and rescue trafficked children, founding Operation Underground Railroad.
I will admit that there may be some inconsistencies between what is represented onscreen and the actual events. But that's not uncommon when Hollywood gets its hands on a story: characters are combined, incidents altered for dramatic effect and timelines condensed.
“Based on a true story” does not mean “This is a documentary.”
Just ask Baz Luhrmann how accurate his biopic of Elvis was, or do a fact check on Madame Curie. Odds are she didn’t have a British accent like the film’s lead, Greer Garson. Generally, though, films get the basic parts correct.
But the critics of “Sound of Freedom” seem to think that these Hollywood exaggerations in the film undermine its reliability.
They question whether Tim Ballard’s Operation Underground Railroad has been effective. They argue that it’s focus on children as opposed to teen victims of trafficking gives a false view of the crisis. More insidiously, they’ve attacked the actors and producers in the film for espousing QAnon conspiracies.
In the first place, the individuals accused of supporting these conspiracies have disavowed them, which of course doesn’t satisfy the critics. More importantly, the politics of an actor should have no impact on the legitimacy of a film’s message.
For example, Tom Cruise is a Scientologist. He believes in some very bizarre and dangerous theories. And yet the movie “Top Gun: Maverick” was a resounding success last year, and rightly so.
But because “Sound of Freedom” has some faith-based overtones and is financed by a company called Angel Studios, the mainstream media critics are attacking it.
In one particularly ironic and surprising bit of chutzpah, the disgraced publication “Rolling Stone” has run a series of articles attacking the film’s accuracy.
That’s rich, coming from a publication that blatantly lied about the University of Virginia rape scandal. They allowed a biased and incompetent reporter named Sabrina Erdely to present a fictional story about a rape that never occurred.
And these people have the gall to challenge the accuracy of a movie? The mind reels and the stomach churns.
Other critics say that the movie sensationalizes child trafficking.
Not having seen it, I can’t say for sure if the story is sensational or simply melodramatic.
I can tell you, as someone who has practiced immigration law for nearly 30 years and has met victims of trafficking that sensationalizing the epidemic isn’t the worst thing you can do. Ignoring it is much worse.
If this film, perhaps flawed and perhaps incomplete, focuses our attention on a tragedy that Hollywood has basically ignored for decades, I’m willing to excuse a few overly-dramatic moments.
I’m more than happy to watch imperfect actors portray exceptional humans. I’m thrilled to pay money to amplify a message that will, I hope, encourage others to become involved in ending the human carnage.
Now I just have to get to a theater.
Copyright 2023 Christine Flowers, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
Christine Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, and can be reached at [email protected].