Sound of Freedom (2023)

Directed by Alejandro Gómez Monteverde

The story of Tim Ballard, a former US government agent, who quits his job in order to devote his life to rescuing children from global sex traffickers.

Although this movie is quite obviously badly acted, scripted and edited (i.e. its $14.5m budget was not spent on those), The Sound of Freedom presents an additional eerie dimension in its disconnect between the film's moral ugliness and its competently executed visuals. There is also something disarmingly unique about how it can be both inexorably monotonous and ethically rancid at the same time, not least when you pay enough attention to notice all the horrible little details, such as that the only named paedophile has a kinda Jewish ring to it.

More broadly, though, it's difficult to avoid interpreting the recent QAnon-fueled obsession with child sex trafficking as anything other than a flimsy and morally sanctioned pretence to linger on the most prurient ideas and images again and again, all booby-trapped by the most crudely manipulative and predictable rhetorical responses such as "oh what, are you pro paedophile or something?" and "what if it was your child that was kidnapped?" and so on.

But putting aside the filmmakers' stated (and unstated) intentions for a second, what is the political and social result of suggesting that you cannot trust anyone in society not to be a deranged monster who is going to abduct your child and you cannot let your guard down for a single moment? I am not a sociologist, but I'm guessing it's not exactly a recipe for a harmonious society. I'm also not sure that caricaturing anything south of the Mexico—US border as a literal and figurative slum where the demonic forces of evil abide within a Heart of Darkness is a great tactic for international crime-fighting cooperation as well. But then again, nor is encouraging vigilante groups to generate massive and unprecedented demand in the sex trafficking market to begin with. And don't get me started on posing as United Nations health workers, etc. What does this movie want from me?