Director: Alejandro Monteverde
While watching this harrowing and equally distressing story, I couldn’t stop wondering how, someone like myself can help. Beyond pledging a donation to a random foundation which essentially, in my humble opinion, is just a fee we pay so we can ignore the real issue and continue on with our everyday lives. I kept thinking, what can I actually do? I’m not a special agent or law enforcer, have no background in human rights or is someone with a cash flow that would allow me to set up an organisation to help combat this horrifying business. But as I continued to watch, the film tells you how. Even outrightly, and directly so in the form of a personal, heartfelt message from Jim Caviezel during the end credits. And this echoed with me throughout and long after watching the film. “When God tells you want to do, you cannot hesitate.”
It’s been a long while since I wrote a film review, and even though I’ve come so close to getting back into the writing fashion and nearly completing some blogs; I’ve never actually got round to posting anything. But this was a clear calling, and if I was to sit and do nothing, or even write something and not post. Then clearly I don’t care enough and not passionate about wanting to contribute. Not being a parent, it’s hard for me to even imagine the pain one must have to go through when something as tragic as this happens. And to say to children that monsters don’t exist, would be to lie. Because sadly, these predators, vampires do exist and yet it’s still so hard to believe this is a multibillion dollar industry that’s sweeping the planet.
I had heard about this film being made quite some time ago; had seen a viral video of Mel Gibson amateurishly promoting the film, but was a via repost from someone stating that the world elite would be after him due to the context and subject matter of the story. Checking back then, Mel Gibson wasn’t even credited as producer on the IMDb, he still isn't; but the film clearly states his involvement and the video got me following Tim Ballard on the then Twitter and I saw the challenging and courageous work this man and family had dedicated their lives to. It should be shocking, or maybe unsurprising that this film was finished back in 2018, prior to covid and yet major streaming platforms and key distribution companies stepped away from the project, possibly not wanting to tarnish their corporate reputation and likely shareholders. This fact in itself should tell you something.
This is supposed to be a film blog, a movie review but it’s so difficult to look at this film subjectively with the message that the story conveys; which is equally hard to ignore. The film asks a lot of the audience both intellectually and emotionally, and I can’t imagine the level of dread this would trigger in any loving parent. What would you do? Who would you turn to for help when local authorities can't or worse, won't because they're involved? Where do you even start? But the message here is clear. Not so aggressively, but the story is raising awareness of the global crisis of human trafficking and, poignantly focusing on the millions of missing children and the disturbing violations they endure.
Fairly unknown Alejandro Monteverde writes (alongside Rod Barr) and directs Tim Ballard’s courageous, yet chilling true story of rescuing stolen children from a global paedophilia network. Monteverde’s stylish direction is artfully done considering the difficult subject matter, and the elusive Jim Caviezel makes an emotional and believable portrayal of Tim; even though producers did not initially approve of the choice; it is clear that Caviezel is passionate about this both on and off screen. I could mention the supporting cast like Bill Camp, Javier Godino and Mira Sorvino, but again, I feel like I am moving away from the pinnacle point of this film and the script itself hammers this home in more ways than one. However, the performances of both Cristal Aparicio and Lucás Ávila as the abducted brother and sister are outstanding, gut-wrenching and heart-breaking. Everything else about the film, sound, editing and the overall production is on point and couldn’t help but notice a Man on Fire vibe. Javier Navarrete provides a complimenting score that works parallel to the accompanying soundtrack. The vocals are beautiful and emotionally engaging. Even the film’s official titular song by Justin Jesso is a fitting end to the film.
It has to be said that according to cast member and producer, Eduardo Verástegui during an interview with podcaster Lily Rose, none of the children knew the context of the plot so to prevent any negative impact on them, which had raised concerns and criticism. Sadly the film has had a troubled production, mainly because of the subject matter and even the cast and Tim Ballard himself being accused of fame seeking, exaggerating and even supporting questionable conspiracy theories, even being cited as being a “QAnon-tinged thriller” by Rolling Stone. But how does one actually increase awareness about anything without elevating their own exposure and position? Even though the film will inadvertently either garner or rekindle fame; this truly isn’t about self gain for any of the people involved, nor does it directly refer to any conspiracy or outrightly point fingers, and allows the audience to make their own assumptions, connections and conspiracies. And any further argument or defences from the cast or crew will ironically increase awareness not only to the film but to themselves also; and raising awareness is part of the goal here.
This truly is for the innocent children, the millions of them out there across the globe who just want to be children and be free, as all children should be. There’s a powerful quote in the film that immediately reminded me of a quote I wrote on my neglected Tumblr page back in 2016, a thought that has stayed with me for years. “I will not fight for YOUR children, nor will I fight for MY children. I fight for ALL children” as all our children regardless of faith, culture, class, nationality, whatever labels we adults imposed upon ourselves growing up; are all born innocent in this world. Living and working around London, it has always brought a smile to myself to see diverse groups of children playing and talking with each other, without a care in the world. And whilst the story and theme is disturbing, all the more hard-hitting being based on a true story, it does have hope, goodness and triumph; possibly making some audiences uncomfortably grateful they have never had to experience such traumatic ordeals.
Every once in a while, a film brings to light some harsh realities, and we as audiences, fellow human beings, must put aside our differences of opinion and whilst I write more about the film, the performances, the cinematography, all of which is of a high standard; I could even write a glowing paragraph or two on who Tim Ballard is and what he has achieved, but as he would agree, I cannot digress from the topic at hand, and in a way, the is my personal reply to the film’s request.
So here’s some further information on the global crisis of missing people and vulnerable children as human trafficking is a grave concern worldwide, with countless individuals falling prey to this heinous crime. The issue of missing people, particularly missing children, is a distressing aspect of this issue.
Globally, an estimated 25 million people are victims of human trafficking, according to the International Labor Organization (ILO). That’s more than twice the population of Portugal. Of this staggering number, a significant portion comprises missing individuals. While precise figures are challenging to obtain due to underreporting, a closer examination reveals the gravity of the situation.
When it comes to missing children, the United States has been grappling with an alarming rate. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), approximately 365,000 missing children were reported missing in the US in 2022. Doesn’t take a mathematician to realise that’s a thousand children a day on average in a country like America go missing. It's important to note that this figure includes both cases of abduction and children reported missing for various reasons, including runaways and family disputes. But nonetheless, this is a staggering number.
In the United Kingdom, the Missing Persons Bureau reports that around 100,000 people are reported missing each year, with the majority being children and young adults. While the exact number of missing children is not specified, it highlights the severity of the issue within countries that would otherwise be deemed “safe”. Across Europe, the figures regarding missing children are equally concerning. According to Europol, over 30,000 missing migrant children were reported in Europe in 2021 alone. These children, often displaced due to conflicts or seeking a better life, are highly vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking.
Certain countries bear a disproportionate burden in terms of missing individuals and children. For instance, Nigeria has been identified as a significant source country for human trafficking, with thousands of children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking. Other countries heavily affected include India, China, Thailand, and Brazil. This film focusing on Colombia. It is worth noting that these statistics represent reported cases, and the actual numbers may be significantly higher due to underreporting, fear, and the clandestine nature of human trafficking contribute to the challenges in obtaining accurate data.
Addressing this crisis requires concerted efforts from governments, law enforcement agencies, international bodies, and civil society organizations. Collaborative measures such as increased public awareness, enhanced border security, improved victim support services, and robust law enforcement are crucial in combating human trafficking and rescuing missing individuals, particularly vulnerable children.
As the gravity of this issue becomes increasingly apparent, it is incumbent upon society to stand together, raise awareness, and work tirelessly to protect the rights and well-being of all individuals, particularly those at risk of becoming victims of human trafficking. So please, as this story requests, do please watch, share and spread the word. We all know it’s horrifying but we can choose to do something about it, and if raising awareness is something we can all do, then why not.
“Evil prevails when good people do nothing”.
Running Time: 9
The Cast: 9
Job Description: 10
The Extra Bonus Points: 10 for the message it is delivering.