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Provo company behind ‘Sound of Freedom’ responds to report that investor was accused of child kidnapping

The man was reportedly one of more than 6,000 people who gave to a crowdfunding campaign for the anti-child-trafficking film.

(Angel Studios) Lucás Ávila, left, and Jim Caviezel in the anti-child-trafficking movie “Sound of Freedom.”

The Provo company distributing the anti-child-trafficking movie “Sound of Freedom” is responding to a report that one of the thousands of people who invested in the movie’s crowdfunding campaign was recently arrested and accused of child kidnapping.

Newsweek reported Friday that one of the film’s 6,000-plus investors — identified as 51-year-old Fabian Marta, from Chesterfield, Missouri — was arrested by St. Louis police on July 23, and charged with felony child kidnapping. The offense is a class A felony, Newsweek reported, with a possible prison sentence of 10 years to life.

The Newsweek account did not mention any details of the accusations against Marta. The report did say a person with the same name had put up Facebook posts, since deleted, expressing pride in funding the film. Marta’s name also appears in the film’s closing credits, on a long list of funding contributors, Newsweek reported.

The movie, which opened in theaters on July 4, is a fictionalized take on the work of Tim Ballard, former leader of the anti-trafficking group Operation Underground Railroad. The actor Jim Caviezel (“The Passion of the Christ”) stars as Ballard.

Angel Studios, based in Provo, raised $5 million in a crowdfunding campaign to acquire the film’s distribution rights.

In a statement issued Friday, Angel Studios’ CEO Neal Harmon said his company “adhered to the requirements of federal and state laws and regulations in allowing 6,678 people to invest an average of $501 each into the launch of ‘Sound of Freedom.’”

Harmon continued: “Just as anyone can invest in the stock market, everyone who meets the legal criteria can invest in Angel Studios projects. One of the perks of investing was the ability to be listed in the credits.”

Harmon added that “we’re grateful to brave law enforcement officials who have already arrested dozens of traffickers in the weeks following ‘Sound of Freedom’s’ release. Our film speaks to this globally pervasive problem, and it is our hope that perpetrators everywhere will be brought to justice no matter who they are, and that even more people will see the film to raise awareness.”

As of Friday afternoon, according to the number-crunching website Box Office Mojo, “Sound of Freedom” had grossed just over $155 million at the North American box office. That makes it the 13th-highest grossing film of 2023 — earning more money than such summer blockbusters as “Fast X,” “Mission: Impossible-Dead Reckoning, Part One” and “The Flash.”

How the movie reached that box-office level has been called unusual. Angel Studios created a “pay it forward” program, where people who have seen the movie are encouraged to give money to buy tickets for other people to see it. (Over the closing credits, Caviezel, breaking character, makes a direct appeal to moviegoers, and a QR code is shown onscreen.)

CNN reported that some on social media have alleged that screenings that were listed as “sold out” were, in fact, empty. An Angel Studios spokesperson told CNN that they have audited their ticket-selling system “and have found no signs of abuse.”

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