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Freedom Writers (DVD)Hilary Swank stars in this story about a teacher in a racially divided s chool who gives her students what they've always needed - a voice. Swan k plays Erin Gruwell, the real-life teacher at Long Beach's Wilson High who inspired her students to overcome the gangs that divided them and th e education system that forgot them. Based on the book The Freedom Writ ers Diary and supported by a cast of first-time actors who drew from th eir actual experiences on the street, Gruwell teaches us all an importan t lesson about tolerance and trust.]]>
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Way back in 1979, I bought a copy of a book called 36 Children (Penguin Education Specials) from an Anarchist bookstall in Cambridge. Herbert Kohl told that story about a class he taught in Harlem back in the early sixties. It's the same story. So is Dangerous Minds [DVD] , so is Conrack and there are lots of other versions of the same story. Each time I see another version, I hope that things changed and somebody learned something but they never do do they? (I note that Amazon has Conrack listed at over 100 pounds so I guess they always fade from view. That's a shame.
Teachers all over the world find themselves in the same situation as Ms G, facing a class full of kids who find themselves in an alien environment that seems to offer them nothing relevant to their lives. I love the story. It always makes me cry even though I keep hoping someone is going to find some kind of solution beyond Ivan Illyich's Deschooling Society (Open Forum) (for example). In the case of this particular version, I loved the acting, and Hilary Swank is one of my favourite actors. I also loved the writing. I just wish more people could see it..
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 .
The film itself is a powerful drama which gets me every time a watch it.
The plot is gritty with some thought provoking sayings and scenes.
Freedom writers dairy's was actually a book written by Erwins pupils.
All the stories are entwined in this drama.