US Southern Command cancels two showings of ‘Sound of Freedom’
U.S. Southern Command, or SOUTHCOM, has canceled two planned showings of the Christian thriller “Sound of Freedom” at its headquarters in Doral, Fla., the command confirmed Wednesday.
The summer’s surprise box office hit about a former federal agent rescuing children from sex trafficking has earned nearly $182 million in the U.S. and Canada since its July 4 release.
But the movie has garnered negative headlines after its lead actor, Jim Caviezel, publicly linked the film’s anti-exploitation plotline to unproven Q-Anon theories.
That has placed the movie squarely amid America’s culture wars, one that SOUTHCOM seemingly is looking to stay out of by canceling the screenings.
The free screenings, originally planned for Aug. 28 and Oct. 19, were canceled after Military Times inquired about the event, according to the outlet. Critics have also questioned the showing of a political-leaning and heavily Christian faith-based movie on a federal base — especially as troops are required to remain apolitical at work.
In a statement to The Hill, SOUTHCOM said the screenings were canceled after a review of “applicable laws and regulations governing the use of materials subject to copyright and intellectual property laws for official or recreational purposes.”
“Insofar as the film is concerned, following this review, a determination was made to cancel the screenings,” Army Col. Emanuel Ortiz said in the statement. “Individuals interested in viewing the film can still do so at a local theater of their choosing. The now canceled screening was intended to help raise awareness of the nexus between [transnational criminal organizations] and human rights abuses they frequently commit as part of their human smuggling activities,” which sometimes falls within SOUTHCOM’s area of responsibility.
The screening was first announced in a flyer emailed by U.S. Army Garrison-Miami (USAG-M), which invited all locally based military personnel to attend, Military Times reported.
Ortiz confirmed that USAG-M proposed showing the film “after concluding it could help raise awareness of human rights issues closely associated with the nefarious activities of transnational criminal organizations (TCO) operating in Central America, South America and the Caribbean, where SOUTHCOM closely partners with Host Nations to counter the threat posed by those violent criminal groups to our hemisphere and its citizens.”
He added that USAG-M and SOUTHCOM were solely interested in screening the film to “educate and inform our members of these issues depicted in the movie’s central story.”
He stressed that communications about the screening of the movie or any potential future showings do not constitute a Defense Department, Army or SOUTHCOM endorsement of the film or any third-party viewpoints about it.
The “Sound of Freedom” is based on the efforts of Timothy Ballard, a controversial anti-trafficking activist who has claimed he worked for the CIA and the Department of Homeland Security before starting the much-disputed anti-child-exploitation group known as Operation Underground Railroad.
Multiple outlets have reported that Operation Underground Railroad’s missions are difficult to verify and not necessarily truthful in what they’ve accomplished.
The studio that released the film, Angel Studios, in July put out a lengthy blog post acknowledging that the movie takes “creative liberties in depicting the different methods of child trafficking” for “storytelling purposes.”
In the film, Caviezel plays a former CIA officer who quits his job and decides to take matters into his own hands when his bosses won’t authorize the rescue of a child from a Colombian sex trafficking cartel.
Caviezel has garnered his own controversies since the film’s release by expounding the baseless Q-Anon theory that “liberal elites” are involved in a conspiracy to kidnap children and harvest their blood for adrenochrome, which he has falsely claimed is a drug used to look younger and experience euphoria.
Caviezel has publicly touted this unfounded idea on conservative talk shows and events organized by Q-Anon groups, who also support former President Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen.
Caviezel and Ballard both attended a July screening of the film hosted by Trump at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J.