(NewsNation) — The writer and director of “Sound of Freedom” has spoken out to various news outlets about some of the controversies surrounding the film, including the support it has gotten from those who believe in QAnon, which he said is “heartbreaking.”
“If you have to label my work, please watch it first, without prejudice,” Alejandro Monteverde told the Los Angeles Times. “But watch it. Federico Fellini said your job as a director is to break the prejudice that the audience already has about your product. So that was my goal on this film.”
When criticism of the film first started, Monteverde said to the newspaper, “I just went into hiding.”
“I didn’t want to be part of what was happening. I just like to make movies and tell stories,” he said. “But then I said to myself, ‘There’s another side of the story. The full story. And I’m the only one that can tell that because I’m the author of the whole thing.’”
“Sound of Freedom,” which took five years to make, grossed over $100 million in the box office since its July 4 release. The film follows the story of Tim Ballard, a former U.S. government agent who quit his job to rescue children from sex traffickers. Ballard, as well as a team of former government operatives, ended up founding Operation Underground Railroad, a nonprofit anti-sex trafficking organization.
In a column for the The Hollywood Reporter, Monteverde and co-writer Rod Barr said they understand everyone, including those who made Sound of Freedom, has “different perspectives” on many issues.
“We made ‘Sound of Freedom’ in a sincere effort to unite people around a fundamental human rights issue. No single interest group owns the issue of trafficking,” they wrote. “We all own it, because it is happening in the world we all share.”
These “differing perspectives” includes criticism by some who say the movie amplifies conspiracy theories about human trafficking. Experts say Sound of Freedom doesn’t paint a realistic picture of how sex trafficking works — most victims know their traffickers, they say. Perpetuating these myths about trafficking, experts warn, could have very real consequences for victims.
Operation Underground Railroad has also come under fire for the tactics it uses. Some say they let citizens who don’t work in law enforcement to take part in its stings, and that they are overwhelming local authorities. Others have said Operation Underground Railroad, and Ballard, have exaggerated their work. VICE News reported in July that a number of OUR’s claims are “dramatically overstated or without clear documentary evidence.”
When asked by L.A. Times television critic Lorraine Ali about accusations that Ballard has embellished stories, Monteverde said that in the film, “you’re not going to see Tim Ballard. You’re going to see an actor playing Tim Ballard,” and that “it’s not a documentary.”
“That’s why you put “inspired by,” Monteverde said. “You’re not claiming it’s everything he said.”
Many believers in QAnon have loudly supported Sound of Freedom, and its lead actor, Jim Caviezel, has espoused many of the group’s falsehoods. QAnon, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, is an umbrella term for a “sprawling spiderweb” of ring-wing internet conspiracy theories with antisemitic and anti-LGBTQ elements. Believers in QAnon falsely claim, the SPLC said, that the world is run by a secret cabal of pedophiles plotting against former President Trump.
However, Monteverde said in the L.A. Times interview that suggestions the film itself is connected to QAnon are “heartbreaking.”
“It hurts me,” Monteverde said. “The minute they started labeling it with conspiracy theories, it discredits the purity of the work… If you’re telling me that there is all these conspiracy theories in the film, terminologies, that I’ll see symbols of pizza and the names Q or Z, or whatever — no. There’s none of that.”
To Variety, Monteverde acknowledged there are people, such as Caviezel and Ballard, who are “too close to the film that are in politics.” Both Caviezel and Ballard went to a screening of “Sound of Freedom”
hosted by Trump, which Monteverde did not attend.
“It’s like, I love you, but I have to keep my distance,” he said in Variety.
While he distanced himself from QAnon and Caviezel’s beliefs, Monteverde still called him one of the “most professional actors, who dedicated himself to the role.”
“What he does afterward, that’s his personal life,” he said in the Los Angeles Times, adding he doesn’t want to “speak about other people’s views.”
“My hope was that this film creates dialogue at the social level about a subject matter: human trafficking. And that’s what’s happening,” he said.