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4.7 out of 5 stars
Freedom Writers [DVD]
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Set amidst a backdrop of gang violence in L.A, novice teacher Erin Gruwell (Hilary Swank) sets about educating a racial mixed class of underprivileged students.

what unfolds is the usual story of poorer children being denied a decent education by those within the system who uphold the prejudices of the wider society. Of course up steps the naive, initiatly inept and well meaning Gruwell in attempt to help.

This storyline has been done before, in Dangerous Minds, Coach Carter, Glory Road to mention but a few.

From a cynical, logical and detached point of view, all the age old maudlin, emotion evoking mechanisms employed by Hollywood are resorted to once more.

On a slightly more emotional note, I found some parts quite poignant when seeing the prejudice, lack of opportunity, neglect and abuse suffered by the characters. The issues I felt were approached from a realistic stance not from a melodramatic or sensationalist one. Unfortunately, the personal struggles contained herein are an accurate portrayal of those faced by the poorest children in America.

Race is an issue in this film and again it was dealt with a fairly realistic, non-sensationalist way. Again the racial aspect of poverty, crime, violence, lack of education was dealt with pretty well.

Gruwell's character is played well by Swank who conveys an air of naivety (at first) yet also sincerity, integrity, and a strong social conscience that drives her to challenge an educational system founded on extreme racial and class prejudices.

Even though this is a familiar storyline, Freedom Writers I found to be genuinely touching at times. Yes it is a typical 'feel good factor' Hollywood film done in a straight forward way, but there is still a strong social/political message attached.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
For those emotionally secure people, such as myself, I found it hard to keep my emotionally secured feelings emotionally secured whilst watching this film. It was edited fantastically, shot brilliantly, acted amazingly and worked together to form a perfect whole.

There is, of course, the fact that it is an all too common issue, one which we see all too much of, to little effect. There is also the fact that the same old shootings and naive do-gooders make their respective appearances, however, the primary synopsis of the teacher trying to make herself understood, to a class trying to make themselves understood goes hand-in-hand for a movie that crescendoes and breaks the emotional barriers of the most secure people.

My friend cries at nothing. My friend sobbed in the cinema.
Watch it. Alone. Absorb. Then buy the book!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Yes, you may have seen similar films like this but for me i think this film was great viewing as it wasn't about the pupils fitting in and having their lives turned around, it was also a teachers struggle to earn the respect of her pupils.
I've never seen a hilary swank film but gotta say she was really good in her role and most of all convincing.

With all what's going on i think this well worth watching and would recommend this to anyone.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 31 March 2008
I watched this on the weekend and was blown away. I love films and in an age of CGI animation and blockbuster special effects, it was liberating to watch a film that was so moving and inspirational.

The film tells the story of a teacher, who from her class room, managed to change peoples lives for the better and give them a tool to change the world...an education.

This film prooves that if you dare to dream and reach for the stars...you might just get there. Watch the film as it will inpspire you.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Freedom Writers is written and directed by Richard LaGravenese, who adapts from the Freedom Writers Diary written by Erin Gruwell and her class of students at Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach California. It stars Hilary Swank, Patrick Dempsey, Scott Glenn, Imelda Staunton, Jason Finn and Kristin Herrera.

Swank plays Erin Gruwell, an inspirational teacher type who after taking up the teaching position at Woodrow Wilson finds her classroom is a hotbed of ill education and racial disharmony. With little support coming from her superiors and within her own marriage, Gruwell took a novel approach to the task in hand to make a real life difference to her students.

There's been plenty of similar films of this ilk over the years, from way back with The Blackboard Jungle, up to Coach Carter, and stopping briefly for tea, cake and violence with The Principal and Dangerous Minds. Each follows a well worn path of a teacher rising to the challenge of making their respective students better people, even when the odds are stacked against them achieving positive results. Freedom Writers has a real life story in its favour, while the blending of Oscar winner Swank with non professional actors playing the students, really works well and gives the picture an earthy and grounded texture. True, it's full of clichés (racial stereotypes, troubled family backgrounds, dragonian principal), and you sense that even with an extended running time of two hours that we aren't quite getting the full story. Rendering the big class turnaround as seeming contrived. But this is a true uplifting film that's packed with poignant moments such as the impact of the Holocaust teachings on the class, with these passages neatly flecked with sequences involving the violence and dangers that the students face in their everyday lives.

If you can get past those formulaic clichés? Then it becomes a film that's desperately hard to dislike. Besides, committed teachers such as Erin Gruwell are to be treasured, their importance never to be understated. This, in spite of some rough edges, is a fitting tribute to one teacher and a class who managed to overcome major obstacles. 8/10
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 5 October 2007
This movie is based on the book "The Freedom Writers diary: how a teacher and 150 teens used writing to change themselves and the world around them" by the Freedom Writers and Erin Gruwell. It is an inspiring and uplifting movie, a true story about a teacher in a racially divided school who gives her students a chance to learn that they is a world beyond the one they can see in front of them. Erin Gruwell comes to a southern California high school and discovers that her unruly classroom is not easily won over by her good intentions. She eventually gives them the assignment of keeping journals about their own lives, This assignment is something that anyone can do, write anything they want daily without having to worry about being judged. This assignment and her willingness to listen is what bond the class together. The movie shows that regardless of where you are now in your life, what background, race or culture you come from; that anything is possible if you are willing to work and just try.
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Largely avoiding the White supremacism of claiming to be a White savior (compare with Avatar), Hilary SWANK essays a superb performance as a teacher willing to go beyond the call of duty for a bunch of inner-city children. As she does so, she realizes her own dreams while those around her can only watch helpless as they are thereby reminded of their own failings as people.
The children here are neglected by a White educational system that expects non-White children to fail, academically; so creating a deliberately under-resourced system producing the very failure expected. However, the White teacher here understands implicitly that all political theories are inherently self-fulfilling, since self-respect produces more positive results; while self-hatred is more likely to produce the reverse.

Whites are shown as the bad guys in demanding respect without ever earning it; while never giving it to others – whether earned or not. Here, the effort required to do well is shown as a cost to the teacher as well to the student. It adversely affects her marriage to a man who refuses to understand what she is trying to achieve; against the backdrop of the cultural inertia of a White society unwilling to renounce its institutional racism for the benefit of all - even Whites. Like first-class passengers on a sinking ship, Whites still wish to retain the benefits of being first class passengers to the bitter end - even though they will also drown. Here the factory-farm nature of Western schooling is revealed, as a form of social containment for the problems created by that very culture.

White supremacist teachers are shown particularly effectively as those who believe that anyone who is not White is automatically incapable of independent thought. Yet the teachers, themselves, choose not to realize that the way they think is even more collectivist than they claim it is for non-Whites. The problem for Whites is teaching those who are not White - and never can be - especially the common White practice of not listening to the needs and aspirations of non-Whites. This attempts to internalize the sectarianism common in White cultures to those who are its intended victims - who then can, it is hoped, become self-victimizing. Here, like the best conversation, the best teaching is mostly listening.

The only real problem with this movie is that it is more concerned with political issues than with personal. Paradoxically, this makes the film more emotionally-realistic than politically-believable, since most of the characters do not come alive as people we can warm to – we merely respond to the profundity of the ideas expressed. Everyone has to betray their parents’ and peer group’s ideals in order to grow-up into independent people – an act of courage few have the guts to make, since it can often be life threatening, as here. That even the most positively-parented people need to move-on from their parents is made clear as the teacher finds her true avocation in forming a new kind of family from those she teaches.

Not as good as something like To Sir, with Love, but certainly in the same ballpark.
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on 12 December 2011
I watched this movie in class and it was very touching. The film shows how lucky we are here in the U.K. I am really grateful that I can get a good education here but these kids in the U.S. don't understand that because they are all brought up in a rough area and don't expect anyone to care about them. This film's strongest message is that one person can set lots of people free. The teacher set lots of students free. She made them all find their own freedom. That is why I love this film. It also shows you that you can find freedom no matter how difficult your life is. (Ollie)

I think this film is spectacular! It shows the true aspects of American gang life. Hilary Swank plays a great role as a teacher who has to teach a group of Junior students who are all part of gangs, split up into whites, Chinese, and Hispanics. She teachers them to earn each others' trust and they begin to become friendly with each other. It is a great film and can be an emotional one which you are almost certainly are going to need tissues for. If I had known about this film before I would definitely have bought it. (Mason, Charlie, Michael)

This film is spectacular, touching, and amazing. It made me see that things like that are real and they are happening right around the corner. Because this story is true it makes me see life differently and feel that the world is not always peaceful, but it also makes me believe that things can turn around for the better even when they seem impossibly bad. (Megan, Leanne, Emma, Ellen)

This film did not really make a lot of sense to us at the beginning but when the teacher started to use her power on her class and showed them how they could begin to change their lives we were hooked. Outstanding!! (Georgia, Lewis, Danny)

We found this film heartwarming and powerful. Most people are selfish, and watching a teacher give so much, with so much dedication, to her students, and make such a difference in their lives is something we will remember for a long time. (Ella, Kirstie, Nik)

This film is about kids from different cultures and backgrounds who are in a war every day of their lives. Their class and their teacher brings them closer together and makes a much more positive future possible for them. Fantastic!! (Will, Tom)
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Oh no not another movie about some middle class white person inspiring a racially diverse bunch of teenage gang -bangers that yeah there is more to life than getting "respec" , protecting your turf and killing each other. Hasn't this been done before? Well yes it has , most recently with the truly laughable "Dangerous Minds", but leave your cynicism by .....well by whatever the best place to leave it is , because Freedom Writers is based on a true story -a truly inspiring one at that - and whatever your levels of scepticism surely anyone with a living beating heart will find something affecting about this movie.
Idealistic first-year English teacher Erin Gruwell (Hilary Swank who also served as an executive producer), the daughter of a civil rights activist Steve Gruwell (Scott Glenn) attempts to make a difference by taking her first job in a volatile inner-city Los Angeles high school. Like Glenn Ford in "The Blackboard Jungle" or Sidney Poitier in "To Sir, With Love," Gruwell hasn't a clue about what she's getting into. But she cares, she's determined and she perseveres, battling intransigent scathing veterans and an unmoving bureaucracy every step of the way. Why she even takes on extra jobs to buy the students new books, organises fund-raising events all to the detriment of her marriage to under-achieving Scott (Patrick Dempsey)
Her class of black, Latino and Asian students are not exactly thrilled about reading The Odyssey. but through resolve and gawky determination and a willingness to meet her students on their own terms, Erin turns the class of misfits into a family of confident young scholars. Her primary inspirational tool involves encouraging the students to write diaries about their everyday lives, providing a catharsis for the under privileged teens. She teaches them about the Holocaust ,they meet some holocaust survivors played by real veterans and after reading the "Diary Of Anne Frank" they arrange a visit from Miep Gies(Pat Carroll), the woman who hid Anne Frank from the Nazi's .
Director/writer Richard La Gravanese keeps the premise simple , though there sub -plots involving sulky Eva (April Hernandez) and Andre(Mario).It could be argued that the film is over simplified and while Hilary Swank is a terrific actress , her performance is a little one note -all wringing hands and toothy grin .The scene where she attempts to get the kids on-side by playing Snoop Dog and dancing like her feet having been stapled to concrete lintels is toe curling.
Then there are the kids. They all put in credible performances but are clearly way beyond the ages they are meant to be portraying . While the film has a sincere evocative message and is genuinely moving at times it struck me that it leaves the viewer with a rather bittersweet message. We can cheer the accomplishment of these propitious few, but the film clearly proclaims that her project is an exception. If it takes the total commitment of an extraordinary individual to reach students, then isolated success is all we can expect from this damaged structure. Having said that her achievement is worthy of celebration and this film is a creditable part of that celebration .
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 23 February 2007
well i saw this film recently and was overwhelmed by how emotional this film gets you. although when i first saw the trailor i pretty much thought that it was just an up to date version of 'dangerous minds' and in ways it is.. but much better.

hilary swank gives an outstanding performance and the supporting cast are also excellant which gives the film an extra bonus.

i love the true story aspect of this film and i think you should all watch it because it gives a clear message about life that can still stand in the world today and i think thats just what cinema should be doing these days.
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