The military’s US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) canceled two scheduled showings of the hit anti-trafficking film “The Sound of Freedom” at its headquarters in Doral, Florida, according to a statement released on Wednesday. While SOUTHCOM cited copyright concerns as the reason for the cancelation, outside criticism ahead of the screenings may also have played a role in the decision.
“The Sound of Freedom” tells the true story of Tim Ballard, a federal agent who quit his job in Homeland Security and helped to carry out a daring anti-sex trafficking operation in South America. Ballard, portrayed in the film by Jim Caviezel, went on to found Operation Underground Railroad, which has rescued thousands of children from sex trafficking internationally.
Following its premiere on the Fourth of July, “The Sound of Freedom” quickly became a box office success, raking in nearly $200 million during its theatrical run. However, despite its popularity with audiences, critics and media outlets objected to its heavily Christian narrative and accused it of promoting “dangerous and unfounded conspiracy theories.” Specifically, Caviezel, Ballard, and the film’s producers were said to be promoting the QAnon conspiracy, which claims that a group of elite globalist pedophiles ritualistically abuses and murders children., Ballard denied these allegations in interviews after the release of the film and fired back at the media’s efforts to downplay the real and credible threat of child trafficking.
SOUTHCOM first announced the free screenings for military members and their families in an email newsletter obtained by The Military Times last month. The showings were initially scheduled for August 28 and October 19 at the command’s Florida headquarters “in support of SOUTHCOM’s mission to promote respect for human rights and combating trafficking in persons in Central and South America and the Caribbean.” The event flyer also included a notation saying that “the showing of this film does not imply or constitute endorsement by the U.S. Army nor SOUTHCOM.”
But objections to the showing were quickly raised even with this caveat. As reported by The Military Times—which called the movie a “QAnon-embraced film” in the story’s headline—”some critics have questioned whether SOUTHCOM’s leadership is following a policy that requires troops to remain apolitical at work…and to maintain a separation of church and state, considering the film’s heavy Christian narrative.”
The outlet further reported an objection from human trafficking and exploitation consultant Sunnetta Slaughter, who asked “What is the idea and the ideology behind putting this on a military installation? Is this some form of indoctrination into an ideology of extremism?”
In a follow-up email sent out on Wednesday, SOUTHCOM announced that the showings had been “postponed until further notice” pending “further vetting.” “Specific Department of Defense regulatory procedures for screening intellectual property are in place to prevent the appearance of copyright infringement,” the statement read. No mention was made of the objections voiced by critics of the film.
Despite the cancelation, military personnel were still encouraged to watch the movie, and the Southern Command provided a list of showtimes at local theaters.
“The movie’s central theme and its connection to SOUTHCOM’s AOR and our Human Rights Office (HRO) Combating Trafficking in Persons (CTIP) program are inescapable and will serve to raise awareness of the prevalence of trafficking in human persons and sexual abuse and exploitation within our area of responsibility,” the command stated.