INTRODUCTION: This is a subject matter that could have been addressed by a secular filming company. It wasn’t. Hollywood wouldn’t touch this. Disney held the distribution rights because it owns 20th Century Fox which would have distributed it. Disney didn’t allow it (one wonders why? …NOT!). It should have been distributed by a Christian filming company. It wasn’t. It fell to Angel Studios – Mormon owned.
Why did the Christian community allow the Mormons to stand up and provide the necessary distribution of this much needed film? Why couldn’t a Christian owned company produce the film itself? It is what it is. But I’m not happy about it.
It would have been better had this enterprise was Christian led not Mormon, just as a matter of standing for righteousness and exposing darkness. It is what it is.
The film doesn’t touch doctrinal issues: Mormon, Christian, or otherwise. There is mention of GOD, His children, and a verse or two quoted, but that’s all.
For the record: I don’t agree with any Mormon doctrine, I don’t adhere to Mormon affiliations (Angel Studios or otherwise), but the alternative to this seems to be either let this film get distributed by Angel Studios or just hope it eventually gets picked up by a Christian company while it sat on a shelf collecting dust. It collected dust for 5 years!
How much longer should we have waited while these heinous crimes proliferate, outpacing the illegal arms trade and quickly, soon to outpace the drug trade?
Could we have an effect in stopping child trafficking without this film?
The fact is, things have been done to thwart human trafficking long before this script was filmed, saving about 1% of children who are trafficked. Are you satisfied with 1%? If so, then be content. I’m not! I will do everything I can, starting first with prayer, to thwart trafficking of human beings especially of children!
Steve Jobs was quoted in the special message played after the film: “The greatest power in this world belongs to the story teller“. Stories are compelling. We remember stories. I can read a novel, pick it up again 10 years later and I’m still familiar with it! They make an impact on us.
This is the story of a (Mormon) man, Tim Ballard, who couldn’t just “do his job” stay within his boundaries and look the other way. He sacrificed. He put his own life on the line when he was confronted by a grieving father who lost BOTH of his children. Thanks to this man Tim Ballard, this father got his son back, but not his daughter. Not yet, and not whole…
This father gazed at Tim’s family picture that this Homeland Security Investigator had on his desk. He turned and asked Tim a question that rocked his world: “What if this was your child who was abducted?” That did it. From then on Tim was on a mission!
What if YOURE child was trafficked? Will you then join this mission? You might say,
“BUT I’m just one person!” One rain drop can’t do much, but joined together with enough other rain drops, and you’ve got a tsunami. An unstoppable force. And we probably won’t be any more successful at stopping this as we’ve been unable to stop drug trafficking.
But if we do nothing, then ALL of these children remain victims of slavery. Some will grow up to become recruiters who will deceive and entrap children themselves with promises of fame and fortune (as depicted in this film).
“But” you say, “I can’t travel to foreign lands and find abducted children!” You don’t have to. Chances are, they’re in your neighborhood, your community, your city. And you don’t have to rescue them. Just help by being the eyes and ears for those who will do the rescuing!
Many have said that they refuse to see this film because of Angel Studios. I get it. I myself have wished it was distributed by some other, as I said. But I want to promote this story, I want as many people exposed to this ugliness as possible in prayerful hopes that we the church will stand and say, “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH” and seek GOD for these children and after praying, I believe many of us will be led by GOD to take some next and necessary steps.
The key is “awareness”. Once you have your eyes opened, once you have a handful of facts, you will see things in public you’ve either noticed but thought little of them, or not noticed them at all.
This film was produced at a cost of $14.5 million and since it’s opening had earned $124 million and is expected to make ten times what it cost by the time it’s run its course.
The film begins with video camera excerpts of abductors snatching up little and not so little children from off their bicycles and shoved into getaway cars; snatched up in shopping malls, at gas stations, in many different locations where children were left by themselves or in the presence of inattentive parents…
In Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Roberto, [Jose Zuniga] a poor father of two, is approached by a former beauty queen, Giselle [Yessica Borroto]. She offers to sign his young children, Miguel and Rocío, to child modeling contracts. He accepts and takes them to the photoshoot. When he returns to pick his children up, they are gone. It is revealed that the children were sold to be used as sex slaves. [emphasis mine]
In Calexico, California, Tim Ballard [Jim Cavaziel] is a Special Agent for the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), where he arrests people who possess and distribute child pornography. The painful work takes a great toll on his personal life, and this is only worsened when another agent, Chris [Scott Haze], points out that they have arrested many child predators, but have failed to save even a single child from being exploited. [emphasis mine]
At one point when Tim is viewing a confiscated video that shows the sexual exploitation of little children, with headphones on, the camera closes in on his eye that begins to shine, well up with tears, and one trickles softly, silently down his cheek. In such a shot we can understand that when it comes to impact, “less is more”. We are left to our imagination what he, a trained agent who had “seen it all” would see that would spark such emotion.
Tim knows that this is because most of them are outside the U.S., but Chris’ words stick with him. He speaks to a predator he arrested, Ernst Oshinsky [Kris Avedisian], and pretends to be a pedophile himself. Once he gains Oshinsky’s trust, he sets up a meeting with a trafficked child, and is able to arrest Earl Buchanan, the man who purchased Miguel.
The young boy they chose to play this role exudes a tender innocence and fragile vulnerability that all little children possess; certainly Miguel, who was harshly broken by his ‘owner’ [Earl] who repeatedly sodomized him (a doctor reports this to Tim who had taken the boy to the hospital to be examined).
Earl had explained to the boy that “It’s important that you do exactly as I say, because – the men you were with? – if you don’t obey me, then they will kill your sister [the boy’s eyes grow large with concerned alarm]. Oh, no! You don’t have to worry, it’s fine! She’ll be safe I promise – just so long as you do what I say!” He then smiles at the boy reassuringly, but also with a glint of wanton lust in his eyes as he looks little Miguel aka “Teddy Bear” up and down.
Tim rescues Miguel and befriends him, asking him for information that would help him find the other children. Tim learns that Miguel’s sister Rocío is still missing, and the boy asks him to save her. Tim arranges for Miguel to return home to Roberto, but not before Miguel gives Tim his sister’s Saint Timothy necklace. Tim starts looking for Rocío, and his search leads him to Cartagena, Colombia. He meets with Vampiro [Bill Camp], a former cartel accountant who now works to save children from sex trafficking.
I feel that Bill Camp was the perfect choice for this role. He has the look of a crook with his disheveled hair, piercing and calculating gaze, his paunch, and a perpetual cigar he chomps on.
At one point in their friendship and comradery in seeking out trafficked children Vampiro is asked by Tim, “Why do you do what you do now, when you could have gone back to this former life [of criminal profiteering]” – but this is a changed man because he realizes that “the darkness of this world [of traffickers]” was “the darkness in me”.
It most especially hits home with Vampiro when he realized the prostitute he had hired shortly after his prison sentence was finished, wasn’t 21, 20, or 19 years old, but a mere fourteen – whose eyes shown with a sadness as she took his money. He then understood that he was the cause of that sadness (as just any other client that used her for her too young body).
When he relates all of this to Tim, Vampiro, after having wrestled with his conscience (and nearly ended his life with a bullet) concluded, “When GOD tells you what to do, you don’t hesitate!”
After reading about a child sex club in Thailand that was shut down, Tim decides that this is the perfect cover story to acquire a large number of Giselle’s children in a sting operation. Vampiro gets a Colombian police officer, Jorge [Javier Godino], and a wealthy citizen named Paul [Eduardo Verastedui] to help with Tim’s mission. Tim’s HSI supervisor, Frost [Kurt Fuller], is unable to provide funding for the operation and asks him to return to the U.S. Tim resigns his position rather than abandon the search for Rocío.
This was a huge sacrifice for Tim to make, because by quitting, he lost his government pension by a matter of only 10 months; an income that would have ably provided for his family – his wife (which he states is the real hero in his family) and his six children for the rest of his life. Yet Tim was instant in his choice: he unequivocally chose to continue his search in the rescuing of Rocío and other children over his own financial wellbeing!
Frost is able to persuade the staff of the U.S. Embassy in Colombia to assist with Tim’s rescue operation. Undercover, they convince Giselle to sell them 54 children, successfully arrest all of the conspirators, and free them, but Rocío is not among them.
After interrogating one of Giselle’s associates, Jorge learns that Rocío was sold to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, entrenched deep in the Amazon natural region. Jorge informs Tim that there is no way to retrieve the girl, because the region is largely unmapped jungle wilderness, and any rebel territory is a no-fly zone for the Colombian government. Vampiro suggests that doctors are allowed into the region for medical purposes, which gives Tim the idea to pose as doctors. Jorge reluctantly agrees to the risky operation. Tim and Vampiro attempt to enter enemy territory in disguise, but the rebels refuse to let more than one of them enter, leaving Tim to enter the area alone.
Tim is offered a gun beforehand as a means of protection, but refuses, saying, “I think I’m better off without it”. This shows the raw courage of this man, who would be facing off an entire encampment of ruthless, coldblooded revolutionaries!
Tim gains access to the enemy camp where Rocío is being held and learns that she is being used as the personal sex slave for the rebel leader, El Alacrán (“the Scorpion”) [Gerardo Taracena], and along with others is required to mash coca leaves to produce cocaine which funds the rebel war against the Colombian government. Tim is forced to kill El Alacrán while freeing Rocío, and despite the rebels pursuing and firing on them, Tim brings Rocío to freedom. Before they part, he gives her back the necklace Miguel gave him earlier. Rocío is finally returned to her father and brother, and the family goes home to Honduras.
An epilogue states that Tim Ballard testified before the United States Congress and claims that his testimony resulted in laws being passed that require the government to cooperate with foreign countries on sex trafficking investigations. The epilogue also claims that there are more people enslaved today than at any other time in history, including when slavery was legal.
My own thoughts on the film:
Ever since the so-called “sexual revolution” – more aptly named (I believe) as the sexual revolt against GOD and His ordained law for sexual union (GEN 2:24; MATT 19:5; 1 THESS 4:3; COL 3:5), the “anything goes” (JUDGES 17:6) of Pandora’s Box has become more and more prevalent. In fact, the hinges on the lid of that box has been snapped off and discarded. There’s no going back – the world at large and America in particular is on the road of (self) destruction per ROMANS 1.
It’s as though Satan himself is singing the song, “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of These)” recorded by The Eurhythmics:
After the Sexual Revolt, the next paradigm shift occurred with the birth of the Internet. Internet Porn (is the most sought after above and beyond any other subject matter) and is the leading cause for the explosion of sexual immorality. “Soft Porn” can and will, given enough time, lead to “Hardcore”; which in turn can turn to such gross things as the raping and murdering of women and girls (ex. Ted Bundy) and also “kiddie porn” which can then turn to child molestation and sexual abuse, whose “supplies” are easily provided for by trafficking these children. A demonic domino effect as it were.
See the Two Part TTUF article: The PERILS and PERVERSION of PORNOGRAPHY – It’s Satanic Influences and Spiritually Destructive Darkness – PART 1 (link to PART 2 is included)
If there wasn’t a demand for porn, there would be no supply. Prior to the Net (aka the Web – interesting names: both of these are used to “catch things”) porn was available in velvety magazines and was already a multi-billion dollar industry. With Internet porn accessibility is literally at our fingertips and “free” – it will only cost you your innocence, perhaps even your soul.
Bottom line: had we not gone off course by leaving the Road of Righteousness as “one nation under GOD” we wouldn’t be where we are today: a deplorable, spiritually dark den of iniquity (lawlessness, rebellion, darkness, disharmony, delusion, chaos, unruly).
All of that as preamble before my comments on the ramifications of this film.
In any of the social ills that we face in our nation, and those of the world, such as abortion, transgenderism, drug abuse, violent crime, etc. if we attempt to intervene and “right wrongs” through political activism and social and cultural reform – we will lose these battles.
We must recognize that the evils we face come from human hearts that are evil (incurably sinful; JER 17:9-10) in nature. The solution therefore must be spiritual first and foremost, followed by actions in the political and social arenas.
Child Trafficking isn’t going to go away simply because we incarcerate those who are culpable as providers or users of these “services”. It isn’t going to go away by educating and rehabilitating sex addicts and criminals. These things are band-aids, and band-aids are useful in the short term, but putting one on a person with gangrene is useless. The matter is far deeper than this and requires more comprehensive solutions!
This is spiritually speaking, what we are facing today; America’s soul is inundated with gangrene that is rotting away what’s left of our soundness. Saints must face the facts of this condition, and we must fast and pray – not just about this issue alone (which is undoubtedly a serious symptom of the dire condition we are in) but for this nation as a whole.
I don’t know if the collective prayers and fastings of the true church of Jesus Christ (the body of born again disciples of Christ) will or even can turn this nation around. Listen to the teaching I’ve linked about “FOUR SIGNS” above and come to your own conclusions.
For myself, I think America is over, and so GOD is reaching out to individuals and calling them to repentance. May some of these be child traffickers or those who pay for access to abuse these precious souls (In SECTION TWO, of the TTUF series: ABDUCTION: The TERROR of BEING TRAFFICKED I listed ways in which we can pray knowledgeably about all of this).
The challenge of this film was to walk a tight rope and not fall off on either side. If this film was too graphic, it would turn people off and away. If it wasn’t graphic enough, it would lose its impact. Substantial kudos goes to the screen writers and director who balanced this project with a lot of skill and consideration.
It isn’t so graphic that parents and grandparents won’t bring their teens and children to see this. I know of some who are bringing their teens, and even some mature pre-teens to see this film after they’ve screened it themselves. I applaud their decision to do so – only because our children need to understand the reality of these imminent dangers and to ensure that they remain aware and diligent in the face of them.
This film has made enough of an impact on me, that I am incorporating this emergency, nationwide pandemic into my regular prayer life and seeking GOD on what else I can do in addition to intercessory prayer. May I suggest that you do the same, all of you who name the name of Christ? If we as the body of Christ won’t cry out to GOD on behalf of these children, then who will? More to the point, who can??
The LORD may bring these broken souls to your doorstep and use you as His vessel to pour out His love and grace, ministering to their wounds in order to bring about a restoration of that which Satan has sought to destroy. I know for myself, the LORD has called me to be an encourager, a restorer, to repair the breaches and brokenness in people’s lives (ISA 58:12). I await the LORD’s orders on where and when I am to effect such ministry in such lives as these.
See BEING A RESTORER, REPAIRER, A TRUE SERVANT OVER GOD’s SHEEP.
I think that sort of job description is not at all limited to pastors; if you are a child of GOD, indwelt by the Spirit of Christ, you have the ability and dare I say, the obligation to be a vessel for the LORD to use, just as He Himself was used of GOD the FATHER in such miraculous work in spiritual restoration and healing:
1 “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD…
MORE INFO ABOUT THIS FILM:
Here is Greg Reid again with Thomas Dunn of THROUGH The BLACK on this film. In addition to his heartfelt response to this movie, Tom offers a valid critique of the film on a professional level as he is a film maker himself.
Collene James joins Tom Dunn in another episode of THROUGH The BLACK, entitled The Pink Room: they conduct an interview with Harry Calpinger discussing his experiences as an investigator into child trafficking (https://www.facebook.com/Phoenixsog2011/ This is his Facebook page)
Understand that Tim Ballard is a devout Mormon and we as Christians must be careful of our spiritual associations (light and darkness just don’t mix). Partnering with the Mormon church or the Roman Catholic church is inadvisable in any spiritual matters like the Gospel or in ministry to saints and sinners.
However, when it comes to the rescue of children from traffickers – while there are certainly spiritual implications, the act of such physical rescuing of these souls is not a cause to divide from others who are likeminded in their desire to see them safe and sound, freed from their nightmarish bondage.
14 Therefore He says: “Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.” 15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be unwise but understand what the will of the Lord is. (COL 4:5)