The decade's most triggering comedy
The following is a transcript excerpt from a special edition of Morning Wire.
Child trafficking remains a very real problem on both sides of the border. Now Angel Studios brings us “Sound of Freedom,” a film which tells the true story of federal agent Tim Ballard who rescues a young boy from child traffickers in Colombia. Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief John Bickley sat down with actor and producer of the film Eduardo Verastegui for a special episode of Morning Wire to talk about the hurdles he faced making the movie and why it’s so important.
JOHN: Joining us now is Eduardo Verastegui, one of the film’s producers and stars, who plays a key role. Eduardo, thanks for joining us. First, you’ve had a massively successful career as an actor in Mexico – for the sake of our American audience, would you give us a little background on what you’ve done leading up to your role in producing and starring in “Sound of Freedom?”
EDUARDO: Well, I started my career when I was 18, almost 19 years-old. I’m from a very small town in northern Mexico called Xicoténcatl, Tamaulipas. This is in northern Mexico below Texas. My parents wanted me to be a lawyer, so I went to law school, but I was not passionate about being a lawyer. So when I was 18, I left college after two semesters, and I moved to Mexico City to pursue my dream. I wanted to be an actor. I wanted to be a singer. So I started singing in a boy band for three and a half years and we became a very successful, touring all over Mexico and Latin America. After three and a half years singing with that boy band, I left music because I wanted to start an acting career. And at that time, if you wanted to make a living as an actor, you didn’t have so many options. You either do soap operas … or soap operas. And that’s what I did for almost three and a half years too. After that, I moved to Miami to record my first solo album in Spanish. And one day I was flying from Miami to Los Angeles with my manager and I met someone, who was sitting next to my manager on the plane, and he happens to be the VP for casting directors at 20th Century Fox. To make a long story short, he invites me to do an audition for a film. I did the audition and I got the part in a movie called “Chasing Papi.”
After that movie, it was 10 years of working really hard — music, soap operas, and music again. Finally, that big dream that I had when I was very young of one day moving to Hollywood and making my first American film in English — it was a big dream — and now I was doing it with agents and managers and publicists and lawyers and 20 people working with me. It was the American dream. But then, on the one hand, I thought I had everything, but on the other hand, I had nothing. I was very empty. Something was missing in my life, I was not happy and I was very confused because I didn’t know what was missing.
Then, meeting my English teacher, Jasmine, she not only taught me English, she not only helped me with my auditions and with my accent. She also went deeper than that. She started using this Socratic method, asking me questions like, “Eduardo, what is the purpose of your life? What do you wanna gain in your life? And why? How are you using your talents? Are you part of the problem or are you part of the solution? Do you realize that very few times do you see Latinos having an opportunity of being heroes, — but not like Superman or Spider-Man — but the everyday hero, the man who comes to this country to work really hard. Men of integrity, virtuous men. And Latina women as well, reduced to objects, sex symbols. You know, who, who are you, Eduardo, who is your family?” And I answered, “Well, my family is everything to me. I have three younger sisters and they’re the best part of the family — my sisters and my mother. They are the heart of the family. They’re full of wisdom. They’re beautiful. They’re smart.” “Okay,” she said, “So let me ask you one more time: The media influences how people think. Are you part of the problem or part of the solution?”
And that’s when I realized that I was part of the problem. So I made a promise to God and to my parents that I will never work again in anything that will offend my faith, my family, or my Latino culture. And after I made the promise, brother, I ended up not working for four years and I lost everything. Everything. But you know, I gained everything that really matters in life. But I was tired of waiting for a role that would portray a man as a real man. Until someone advised me, “Eduardo, you’re gonna be waiting forever. Why don’t you become a producer so you can have the power to control the message?” And that’s how — with Alejandro Monteverde, Leo Severino, the three of us — we started this production company. We had one goal: Let’s make movies that matter — movies that, when people see them in theaters, they will leave the theater not only entertained, but hopefully wanting to love more, wanting to forgive more, wanting to complain less, wanting to become the best. The best version of themselves, because art has the power to change people’s lives for good or for bad. And the first fruit of that mission was a little film that has changed the lives of so many people, it won at the Toronto Film Festival in 2006, and changed my own life, a movie called “Bella.” It was the first movie that I produced in my life. And after that, we did “Little Boy.” And after that, eight years ago, I met Tim Ballard, an American hero.
JOHN: This film is powerful and inspiring – offering hope and direction. But it’s obviously a very difficult topic. Why did you take on this particular project?
EDUARDO: Well, I’m always looking for projects, but somehow this project found us. We were in Los Angeles, California, when we met Tim Ballard, a true American hero, and he introduced us to his friends – ex-FBI agents, CIA agents, ex-Navy Seals. These guys travel around the world undercover, rescuing children who are kidnapped for sex exploitation. And when they explained to us the details of what these children are going through, the pain that they’re going through, the suffering, I was very inspired by meeting heroes like them. But I was depressed. I couldn’t sleep for days, it was horrible, it was like a nightmare. And I couldn’t look the other way. I couldn’t remain silent. And Alejandro and I, we said, well, we have a weapon of mass instruction and inspiration: film, movies. Movies can move people – we can make a movie. I asked Ballard, “Okay, so this is a global problem, right?” And he said, “Yes, especially in the U.S. and Mexico. The U.S. is the number one consumer of child sex in the world and Mexico is the number one provider.” So I asked him, “How come if the United States is the most powerful country in the world, you have the intelligence, you have the army, the police, you have the technology, you have everything. How come we don’t finish this problem?” And he said to me, “Because it’s not a priority. And we are not the solution, Eduardo. I can be the solution for one child and of course, if I save one child, you save the world. Thank God we have been able to save and to rescue many children, thousands of children, but this is beyond us. It’s too big.”
We’re talking about millions of children that are kidnapped for sexual exploitation. These kids are being raped 10 to 15 times a day for many years. We need a movement. And I believe that this movie can start this movement. The number one and most important step is to raise awareness, because if people don’t know that this problem exists, they cannot be part of the solution in the first place. So we need to tell people through this movement that this is real, this is happening here, next door — everywhere, schools everywhere. And if we put enough pressure from the media, from our society to the government, we can turn this into a priority – and then, and only then, I have no doubt that by working together we can end this terrible reality.
And that’s when I decided to stop everything that I was doing in my life at the time so I can dedicate my life to ending child trafficking. I made a promise to God that I will dedicate everything to join this army of brave people who are not afraid to raise their voices, to defend those who [don’t] have a voice, who defend those who can[not] defend themselves. That’s my motivation. Let’s protect every child. God’s children are not for sale.
JOHN: Now, this is a film that took several years to get to audiences, with a lot of roadblocks. Can you tell us about some of those challenges – what made making this film so difficult?
EDUARDO: Well, everything was difficult from day one. When I shared the idea with my friends and some investors they said, “Why? Why this one? This is too dangerous, this is too dangerous.” I said, “Yes, it is very dangerous, but it’s more dangerous not to do it in the long term. And what if this is your son? What if this is your daughter?” And I dream that one day we don’t have to rescue any more children because this thing is over. It doesn’t exist anymore, but we need to start now. “What do you mean it’s too dangerous, man? Come on, we need to do this.” But right there, it was rejection from people that I went to, knocking on their doors asking them for support. “No, we don’t wanna get involved in this.” So there were obstacles, but thank God, we knocked on the doors of the right people who said yes, even though it was months of many nos – no, no, no, we’re not gonna support this. Finally, someone says yes. You can never give up when you are working on a project that is designed to save lives. This is a calling. This is a mission. This is so profound. So, finally we raised the funds and we made the movie. We went to Colombia because this is a true story. When I asked him, Ballard, I said, “It’s very hard to make a movie about you because you need a hundred episodes — but this is a two-hour film. So tell me, what’s the most difficult rescue mission you’ve ever done in your life?” And he told Alejandro and me: Cartagena, Colombia, the first one. It was very dangerous. It was very difficult, but it was very successful because at the end, the kids are crying with tears in their eyes, singing, and celebrating their freedom. It was like this beautiful sound of freedom. And that’s when we look at each other, Alejandro and I, okay, that’s the movie and that’s the title. So after we finished the movie, it was five years of work, then every studio passed. We went to Netflix, we went to Amazon. I didn’t know why, but they said, “This is not for us, this is not a good business for us.” But this is not about business, this is about saving lives, saving children. This is the greatest evil. I mean, there’s nothing more evil than this. What do you mean this is not for us? The kids cannot wait any longer. I need to do something.
So I started doing this tour in Mexico where I asked each governor from each state to host a private screening for leaders of that state and then after the film we invited the media too, and the press and leaders of that state. And then we signed an agreement, a commitment to end child trafficking in that state. And that’s how I survived with this movie. It was two years of tours all over Mexico, until finally, I was praying for an angel to come to rescue this movie. And guess what? Angel Studios came and rescued this film. And because of them, now millions of people will see this film. Now, there is going to be an opening on July 4th. What a symbolic day, because it’s Independence Day, right? We’re celebrating freedom. And yes, we should with one hand, but with another hand we should bring freedom back to those children who are not free right now.
JOHN: Well Eduardo, thank you so much for joining us and for all the work you’ve done raising awareness for this extremely important issue.
EDUARDO: God bless you, brother. Thank you.
JOHN: That was “Sound of Freedom” producer and star Eduardo Verastegui and this has been a special edition of Morning Wire.