Why Did Disney Shelve 'Sound of Freedom'? Details on the Controversial Film

Callie (Carlos) Cadorniga - Author

Jul. 10 2023, Updated 5:59 p.m. ET

To say that the box office trends for Summer 2023 have been odd thus far would be a gross understatement. Thanks in no small part to controversy surrounding both the studio that made it and the person who starred in it, box office performance for The Flash fell well below market projections and may end up losing WBD money amidst the company's imploding reputation. Subsequently, the record-breaking Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse returned to the Number 1 box office earner in its fourth week amidst other lackluster releases.

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Then there's Sound of Freedom. Not exactly an indie, yet not exactly a big-time name, the controversial film opened to $14.2 million from its July 4 release, reportedly beating out Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny released that same weekend.

If you've never heard of the film before, then there might be a good reason. Sound of Freedom was actually shelved by Disney for several years leading up to its release. Now, many folks are wondering what took so long for the movie to come out.

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Why was 'Sound of Freedom' shelved by Disney?

Reportedly based on a true story, the film is directed by Mexican film director Alejandro Monteverde and follows former government agent Tim Ballard (Jim Caviezel) as he takes on a mission to rescue children from sex traffickers in Colombia.

Sound of Freedom is adapted from the story of the real Tim Ballard, who previously founded Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.), a nonprofit organization that conducts strong operations to take down sex trafficking rings.

Interestingly, the film was actually shot and completed in 2018 and was originally going to be released by 20th Century Fox. However, that studio would eventually be purchased by the Walt Disney Company. Having obtained the rights to Sound of Freedom in the merger, Disney elected to shelve the film instead of releasing it outright. There has been no official statement as to why the studio shelved the film in the first place, but the film's surrounding controversy likely didn't help.

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According to several reports, the events depicted in the film are wildly exaggerated when it comes to O.U.R. According to a 2020 report by Vice News, their involvement in the rescue of a trafficked woman was highly embellished in the film when compared to real-life events. The organization itself has also been widely criticized for its loose operations and poor preparation when reacting to criminal activity. The real Tim Ballard has even gone on record lying about his involvement in these operations as depicted in the film.

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Given that the film borders more on propaganda than a dramatic retelling of harrowing events, it's no wonder that Disney might have been hesitant to attach their name to the film (we haven't even gotten to the QAnon stances held by the film's main star).

Sound of Freedom would languish for several years as the film team attempted to get the distribution rights back from Disney.

Upon doing so, the rights were later obtained by Angel Studios, who would go on to release the film on July 4 following an equity crowdfunding campaign.

Sound of Freedom became a surprise hit in theaters, beating out some blockbuster legacy titles upon its release. However, its many controversies have not gone unnoticed by reputable sources.

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