Freedom Writers (2007) is an American film starring Hilary Swank in the role of the young and idealistic high school teacher, Erin Gruwell. The film is based on a true story, which is recounted in the diaries of Miss Gruwell and 150 “unteachable” and “at risk” students in Long Beach, California.
The first encounter between students and teachers is always exciting. Erin Gruwell, the new teacher at Wilson High, is met with hostility from her Hispanic, Asian and African American students. One of the students even states that she hates her because she is white.
Erin Gruwell: You hate me? You don't even know me.
Student: I know what you can do. I saw white cops shoot my friend in the back for reaching into his pocket, his pocket! I saw white cops come into my house and take my father away for no REASON except they feel like it! Except because they can! And they can, because they're white. So I HATE white people on sight!
Not What She Expected
In the 1980s, Woodrow Wilson High School was recognized as a high-achieving school. However, in the early 90s the school launched an integration program where teaching discipline and obedience was a primary concern. On her first day, Miss Gruwell enthusiastically expects to be met by motivated and keen students. Instead, she is confronted by hostile teenagers segregated in racial groups in the classroom.
Rising to the Challenge
The new high school teacher miraculously manages to grab the attention of the tough teenagers by making them see what segregation and racism led to during the Second World War. On a visit to the Holocaust section in the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles they are introduced to the story of the young Dutch Jewish girl, Anne Frank, and her destiny as a Holocaust victim. They detect many parallels to their own suburban lives as members of dysfunctional families and rough gangs.
This revelation inspires them to keep diaries that offer a more healthy way of giving an outlet for their frustration and anger than gangbanging and violence. The diaries were compiled in the book, The Freedom Writers Diary, on which the film is based. The title of the project is a word play on the term “Freedom Riders” referring to the 1961 civil rights activists that rode the state buses into the Southern States to demonstrate against their segregation policy.
Tasks and Activities
Watch a trailer from the film. Trailer - Freedom Writers
- From the information in the trailer, what do you think is the theme and the plot?
- Which teaching methods are demonstrated? Do they work, do you think?
- There are many scenes where violence is evident. What effect do you think these scenes have?
Find out how the story of Anne Frank is important in the film? (Search words: Anne Frank video blog)
Make a brief character analysis on ONE of these characters: Erin (Miss G); Erin's father; Erin's husband; Erin's colleague; Eva; Andre; the principal; Miep Gies.
- List the values and culture clashes you find in the film.
- “The Line Game” is a turning point in the movie. Describe the game and explain its purpose. How is it a turning point for the class?
- Comment on the camera shots, music, props and other effects.
- Does this film have a so called false ending?
- What is Miss G's motivation? How would you explain her dedication?
- Why does Miss G's husband choose to leave her?
- One of the goals of the English curriculum is to assess and evaluate your progress in learning English. Think of all of the learning methods that have been used in English class throughout the year and find out which ones work best (for you), and why.
This is Crystal's film "review" posted in a blog:
"This movie I think shud make ppl apperciate wat u have now cuz the kids dat diz happened to probably lost a lot to gang violence or jus becuz someone felt like shootin u cuz u were a different race from dem. And if that teacher had't believed in them they wud have probably been dead or doin nothin with there lives" (Crystal, 2010)
Write a "review" after watching the film. Make it appropriate for posting in a blog.
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