Photo by: Jaimie Trueblood
Freshfaced, idealistic twentythreeyearold Erin Gruwell (Hilary Swank) is ready to take on the world as she steps inside Wilson High School for her first day of teaching.
Her class, a diverse group of racially charged teenagers from different walks of life African Americans, Latinos, Asians, juvenile delinquents, gang members, and underprivileged students from poor neighborhoods hope for nothing more than to make it through the day.
On the surface, the only thing they share is their hatred for each other and the understanding that they are simply being warehoused in the educational system until they are old enough to disappear. Despite her students’ obstinate refusal to participate during class, Erin tries various means to engage them on a daily basis.
But then ghetto reality steps in to focus the picture. A racially motivated gang shooting witnessed by a Latina gang member in Erin’s class, and an an ugly racial cartoon that Erin intercepts during class, become the most unwittingly dynamic teaching aids. They spark a transformation in the classroom, compel them to listen and force her to take off her idealistic blinders and take in the kids’ survival stories of their undeclared war on the streets. Erin begins to connect with them. She brings in music from the ‘Hood, and literature from another kind of ghetto, The Diary of Anne Frank, and with these simple tools she opens her students’ eyes to the experiences of those suffering intolerance throughout the world and the struggles of those outside their own communities.
Knowing that every one of her students has a story to tell, Erin encourages them to keep a daily journal of their thoughts and experiences. After sharing their stories with one another, the students see their shared experience for the first time and open up to the idea that there are possibilities in life outside of making it to the age of eighteen. Based on a true story, “Freedom Writers” is an inspirational tale and testimony to courage, hope and the human spirit’s triumph over intolerance. As the students’ diaries transform from schoolwork into life preservers, Gruwell’s commitment to them grows and affects her in ways she did not imagine.
Paramount Pictures presents the MTV Films / Double Feature Films production, “Freedom Writers,” starring Hilary Swank. Directed by Richard LaGravenese, he also wrote the screenplay based on the book The Freedom Writers Diary by the Freedom Writers with Erin Gruwell. The film is produced by Danny DeVito, Michael Shamberg, and Stacey Sher. The executive producers are Hilary Swank, Nan Morales, Tracey Durning, and Dan Levine. The film also stars Patrick Dempsey and Imelda Staunton and introduces a host of young actors making their feature film debuts. This film is rated PG-13 for violent content, some thematic material, and language.
From Library Journal
When Gruwell was a first-year high school teacher in Long Beach, CA, teaching the "unteachables" (kids that no other teacher wanted to deal with), she discovered that most of her students had not heard of the Holocaust. Shocked, she introduced them to books about toleranceAfirst-person accounts by the likes of Anne Frank and Zlata Filopvic, who chronicled her life in war-torn Sarajevo.
The students were inspired to start keeping diaries of their lives that showed the violence, homelessness, racism, illness, and abuse that surrounded them. These student diaries form the basis of this book, which is cut from the same mold as Dangerous Minds: the outsider teacher, who isn't supposed to last a month, comes in and rebuilds a class with tough love and hard work.
Most readers will be proud to see how these students have succeeded; at the end of their four-year experience, the Freedom WritersAas they called themselves, in honor of the Freedom Riders of the 1960sAhad all graduated; Grunwell now works at the college level, instructing teachers on how to provide more interactive classes for their students. Recommended for youth, education, and urban studies collections.ADanna C. Bell-Russel, Lib. of Congress, Washington, DC (Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. )
Straight from the front line of urban America, the inspiring story of one fiercely determined teacher and her remarkable students.
Film Entertainment Magazine
The Freedom Writers Diary : How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them (Paperback)