a still from Sound of Freedom

‘Sound of Freedom’ Producer Angel Studios Responds to Backer’s Child Kidnapping Charge

Angel Studios, the independent producer and distributor behind the child sex trafficking drama “Sound of Freedom,” has formally responded to reports of one of the film’s backers who in July was arrested and charged with felony child kidnapping.

The distributor’s CEO Neal Harmon on Friday in a statement to IndieWire defended the legal process by which people are allowed to publicly invest in their films but further said it hopes all perpetrators “will be brought to justice no matter who they are,” without naming the specific incident.

“Angel Studios 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.’ 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 said in a statement.

“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.”

Newsweek first reported on Friday that Fabian Marta, 51, from Chesterfield, Missouri, was in July charged and arrested for felony child kidnapping. Marta was among the over 6,600 individuals who together invested $5 million on behalf of Angel Studio’s P&A marketing campaign for “Sound of Freedom,” and his name appears in the film’s lengthy credits along with the other over 6,600 individuals.

The distributor said that on average the collective backers gave $501 each. Angel Studios did not respond to IndieWire’s inquiry as to how much Marta specifically invested in the project.

Angel Studios is what’s known as an equity crowdfunding company, which allows individual backers to help raise money for the purposes of production or distribution. Backers who invest in the project are entitled to a 120 percent return on investment but are also susceptible to losing their investment if the film fails to perform. It’s a separate policy from Angel Studios’ “Pay it Forward” model, which allows people who see the film to overpay for a ticket and fund the purchase of a ticket for another individual, a model that has contributed to the film’s box office success.

Angel Studios co-founder Jeffrey Harmon originally called the revelation of one of the film’s over 6,600 backers being arrested a “nothingburger,” but he later condemned Marta’s alleged actions.

“Sound of Freedom” since opening on July 4 has made $155 million at the domestic box office, largely on the backs of a grassroots marketing campaign and bolstered by the Pay it Forward model. The film, which stars “The Passion of the Christ” actor Jim Caviezel is based on the true story of a U.S. government agent who devoted his life to pursuing perpetrators of child sex trafficking.

The film has outperformed some major studio summer blockbusters in its domestic release alone, but it has also been a lightning rod for conspiracy theories, such as one that AMC Theatres was trying to suppress audiences from seeing the film, something Angel Studios specifically refuted.