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Freedom Writers (2007)

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A young teacher inspires her class of at-risk students to learn tolerance, apply themselves, and pursue education beyond high school.

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(screenplay), (book) | 1 more credit »
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2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Eva Benitez (as April Lee Hernandez)
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Jaclyn Ngan ...
Sergio Montalvo ...
Jason Finn ...
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Ben Daniels
Antonio García ...
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Storyline

It's 1994 in Long Beach, California. Idealistic Erin Gruwell is just starting her first teaching job, that as freshman and sophomore English teacher at Woodrow Wilson High School, which, two years earlier, implemented a voluntary integration program. For many of the existing teachers, the integration has ruined the school, whose previously stellar academic standing has been replaced with many students who will be lucky to graduate or even be literate. Despite choosing the school on purpose because of its integration program, Erin is unprepared for the nature of her classroom, whose students live by generations of strict moral codes of protecting their own at all cost. Many are in gangs and almost all know somebody that has been killed by gang violence. The Latinos hate the Cambodians who hate the blacks and so on. The only person the students hate more is Ms. Gruwell. It isn't until Erin holds an unsanctioned discussion about a recent drive-by shooting death that she fully begins to ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

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Their story. Their world. Their future. See more »

Genres:

Biography | Crime | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for violent content, some thematic material and language | See all certifications »

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Details

Country:

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Language:

Release Date:

5 January 2007 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Écrire pour exister  »

Box Office

Budget:

$21,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$9,405,582 (USA) (5 January 2007)

Gross:

$36,581,633 (USA) (9 March 2007)
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Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

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Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This is the second time that Hilary Swank and Patrick Dempsey have been together in a film; the first was for Iron Jawed Angels (2004). See more »

Goofs

The movie is set in the early to mid 90's. At this time Starbucks Coffee had not yet introduced the "Way I See It" cup, and would not do so for at least 7 years, yet Mrs. G is seen holding one when entering the classroom and while drinking her coffee in a few shots See more »

Quotes

Erin Gruwell: Your bags are packed and you think the wine will give me a headache?
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Connections

Referenced in Bill Burr: Why Do I Do This? (2008) See more »

Soundtracks

Hip Hop Hooray
by Vin Rock (as Vincent Brown), DJ Kay Gee (as Keir Gist), Anthony 'Treach' Criss (as Anthony Shawn Criss),
Ernie Isley, Marvin Isley, O'Kelly Isley, Ronald Isley, Rudolph Isley & Chris Jasper (as Christopher H. Jasper)
Performed by Naughty By Nature
Courtesy of Tommy Boy Music, Inc.
By Arrangement with Warner Music Group Film & TV Licensing
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User Reviews

A superior entry in a long history . . .
2 January 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

"Everyone who remembers his own educational experience remembers teachers, not methods and techniques. The teacher is the kingpin of the educational situation." Sidney Hook, Education for Modern Man

It would be easy to criticize Freedom Writers as just another cliché-infested classroom redemption story, more Blackboard Jungle than History Boys. But because it is based on a true story of at-risk students attending Woodrow Wilson High in Long Beach, a voluntarily integrated school, I have to avoid accusing it of being derivative and offer that it relates the essential truth about education: Most students have a voice if a teacher can find it; most students can thrive when a teacher creates a sense of family amid chaos, as Emily Gruwell did in the early '90's of Rodney King riots in Los Angeles. The diaries her students wrote inspired students around the country to do the same.

Seeing the photo of the real Gruwell with her students as the end credits roll, I can understand cynics saying this is typical Hollywood—no teacher can look like Hillary Swank! But rising above the petty carping that includes skepticism about transformation of unruly kids into real students within a year, I have to admit it happened because of the transforming power of love and words. As in Charlotte's Web, both ingredients are potent reformers of the disaffected.

Gruwell sacrifices, as cases of true love sometimes require, her personal freedom and loses her marriage for the higher good of the young people she teaches. Admittedly, her slacker husband, Scott (Patrick Dempsey), doesn't deserve such a gifted wife, and her crusty dad, Steve (a monumentally weathered Scott Glenn), has some stereotypical responses to his daughter's choices. Most of all I object to those actors as students: They are way too old to be playing 14 and 15 year olds. Surely there are gifted teens who could do the job! Overall, however, the film rings true about the magic a dedicated teacher can do with rebellious but malleable teens.

For those of us who still toil in the fields of education, Freedom Writers reminds us why we love a profession that gives us a chance to save souls in the only way we can certify outside the uncertain faith of religion. This film is a superior entry in a long history of teaching brought to its ideal form in film.


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