However, for the mainstream media, more important than addressing the issue of modern-day slavery is who is telling the story. In most reviews, alongside the genuine shock that the film performs so well, there are immediate attempts to associate the creators with “far-right” groups and conspiracy theories linked to “QAnon,” which claim that deeply depraved elites conspire against ordinary people. According to Rolling Stone magazine, the film is a “QAnon-tinged thriller about child-trafficking is designed to appeal to the conscience of a conspiracy-addled boomer.” Similar sentiments are echoed by The Washington Post, while The Guardian labels it a “QAnon-adjacent thriller.” Almost every review contains references to Jim Caviezel’s past statements at some conference, admitting his alignment with the QAnon movement.
A true gem is Marc Tracy’s review in The New York Times. I quote excerpts from the third and fourth paragraphs of his text: “‘Sound of Freedom’ is based on a true story: Caviezel plays Tim Ballard, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security agent who investigated paedophiles. (Ballard later founded the anti-trafficking group Operation Underground Railroad, became a frequent guest on Fox News and was appointed by former President Donald J. Trump to a federal advisory panel on human trafficking.)” And further: “Some critics say the film appeals to the QAnon movement, which posits a false conspiracy theory accusing progressive elites of pedophilia. ”
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And it doesn’t matter that Neal Harmon, head of Angel Studios and the film’s producer, denied such interpretations in one of his interviews: “Anyone who has watched this film knows it is not about conspiracy theories; it is not about politics.”
Almost every mainstream media review includes the words “QAnon” and “Trump,” a clear signal to readers or viewers meant to discredit the film’s credibility and artistic values.
Another way of discrediting or downplaying Sound of Freedom
is to consistently label it as a “faith-based film,” an image “inspired by faith.” “We don’t want to be pigeonholed as a religiously inspired film. We are giving people the best possible experiences. But we must send a message not only to the film industry but also to the media and the corrupted world that our children are God’s children and are not for sale,” said James Caviezel.
Sound of Freedom
was filmed five years ago. The film was commissioned by the international branch of Fox Studios, but after Disney acquired the studio, it disappeared into a distribution black hole for years. The situation changed when the independent Angel Studios acquired the rights to distribute the film in March of this year. “This film got stuck, couldn’t enter distribution, but in the end, it turned out that the ultimate power lies with the audience,” said studio head Josh Harmon. His company aims to counter the rich Hollywood firms that seem to “control the gateways” to the entire film business.
The film premiered on 4 July 2023, which is the American Independence Day, traditionally considered the best summer moment for movie premieres. On that day, it earned the title of the biggest box office hit. The business plan from March assumed the sale of two million tickets, symbolising the two million exploited children. It wasn’t easy because the film was released on just 2,852 screens, a relatively small scale in the American context. In the film industry, there is no mercy: movies that fail to attract an audience are quickly withdrawn.
However, the audience rushed to see it. The first evening brought in $19.6 million in ticket sales, and after the first week, it reached $45.7 million. It is particularly popular in the “in-between states,” as the more conservative states between liberal California and New York are referred to. Texas, Arizona, Florida, Utah – these states had the most viewers.
“One of the film studio representatives told me that in order for a film to enter the top three in sales after the first week on the screens, you need to spend $11-12 million on promotion,” said Neal Harmon. Angel Studios did not have such money, but they had a business model: they raised $5 million from small investors associated with the company from previous projects, which was needed for promotion (they will receive a portion of any potential profits).