The team behind Sound of Freedom has remained silent so far on new allegations involving Tim Ballard, who is portrayed in the movie as a hero by Passion of the Christ’s Jim Caviezel.
Ballard, founder of the anti-child-trafficking group Operation Underground Railroad, rose to new levels of prominence this summer when the film turned into a sleeper hit that has grossed more than $182 million domestically and $210 million worldwide.
More from The Hollywood Reporter
On Monday, a Vice News report detailed anonymous allegations against Ballard relating to his quiet exit in late June from OUR, which he launched in 2013. His departure came as Sound of Freedom filmmaker Alejandro Monteverde and Angel Studios were readying the film for release over the July Fourth holiday.
Ballard, a former Department of Homeland Security official, embarked on undercover overseas missions to fight child trafficking upon starting OUR According to Vice, he brought women to pose as his wife on these missions and allegedly coerced them to share a bed or shower with him under the guise that these behaviors were needed to fool child traffickers.
Vice also reported that an OUR employee who traveled with Ballard on an overseas mission filed a sexual harassment claim against him.
On Tuesday, after the initial publication of this story, Ballard issued a denial.
“As with all of the assaults on my character and integrity over many years, the latest tabloid-driven sexual allegations are false. They are baseless inventions designed to destroy me and the movement we have built to end the trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable children,” said Ballard. “During my time at O.U.R., I designed strict guidelines for myself and our operators in the field. Sexual contact was prohibited, and I led by example. Given our meticulous attention to this issue, any suggestion of inappropriate sexual contact is categorically false.”
Filmmaker Monteverde did not respond to a request for comment Monday. Neither did Angel Studios.
An OUR spokesperson made the following statement to THR, which read in part, “Tim Ballard resigned from O.U.R. on June 22, 2023. He has permanently separated from O.U.R. O.U.R. is dedicated to combating sexual abuse, and does not tolerate sexual harassment or discrimination by anyone in its organization. O.U.R. retained an independent law firm to conduct a comprehensive investigation of all relevant allegations, and O.U.R. continues to assess and improve the governance of the organization and protocols for its operations.”
Sound of Freedom’s performance at the box office was due in part to a grassroots campaign from Angel that made audiences feel as though they were part of a movement to help end child trafficking. Screenings included a message at the end from Caviezel in which he urged audience members to use a Pay It Forward service to buy tickets for other moviegoers to see the movie. Though the film was discussed on QAnon message boards, Angel and the filmmakers disputed it was a QAnon movie, or that it was even political.
Ballard is an ally of Donald Trump, who hosted a private screening of the movie in mid-July in New Jersey. Ballard in recent days has floated the idea of running for Mitt Romney’s Senate seat when Romney’s term ends.
In an Aug. 14 guest column for The Hollywood Reporter, director Monteverde and co-writer Rod Barr wrote: “Everyone who has seen Sound of Freedom knows that the movie itself is not in the least political. It is based on the story of a real person, Tim Ballard, who quit his job at Homeland Security to rescue trafficked children. In the development, research and writing of the story, we don’t recall a single conversation with Tim about politics. Why? Because personal politics should be irrelevant when you are rescuing children from human trafficking.”
Sept. 19, 10:12 a.m. Updated with statement from Tim Ballard.
Best of The Hollywood Reporter