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Freedom Writers

Promotional movie poster for the film
Directed by Richard LaGravenese
Produced by Danny DeVito
Michael Shamberg
Stacey Sher
Written by Richard LaGravenese, based on The Freedom Writers Diary by Erin Gruwell and her class.
Starring Hilary Swank
Patrick Dempsey
Scott Glenn
Imelda Staunton
Music by Mark Isham,, RZA
Cinematography Jim Denault
Editing by David Moritz
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date(s) January 5, 2007
Running time 122 mins.
Country USA
Language English
Budget $21 million
Gross revenue $43,090,741

Freedom Writers is a 2007 drama film starring Hilary Swank, Scott Glenn, Imelda Staunton and Patrick Dempsey. It is based on the book The Freedom Writers Diary by teacher Erin Gruwell who wrote the story based on Woodrow Wilson Classical High School in Long Beach, California. The title is a play on the term "Freedom Riders", referring to black and white civil rights activists who tested the U.S. Supreme Court decision ordering the desegregation of interstate buses in 1961.

The idea for the film came from journalist Tracey Durning, who made a documentary about Erin Gruwell for the ABC News program Primetime Live. Durning served as co-executive producer of the film.



The storyline of the movie takes place between 1992-1995, beginning with scenes from the 1992 Los Angeles Riots. Hilary Swank plays the role of Erin Gruwell, a new, excited schoolteacher who leaves the safety of her hometown, Newport Beach, to teach at Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, a formerly high achieving school which has recently had an integration program put in place. Her enthusiasm is quickly challenged when she realizes that her class are all "at-risk" students, also known as "unteachables", and not the eager students she was expecting. The students segregate themselves into racial groups in the classroom, fights break out, and eventually most of the students stop turning up to class. Not only does Gruwell meet opposition from her students, but she also has a hard time with her department head, who refuses to let her teach her students with books incase they get damaged and lost, and instead tells her to focus on teaching them discipline and obedience.

One night, two students, Eva (April Lee Hernández), a Hispanic girl and narrator for much of the film, and a Cambodian refugee, Sindy (Jaclyn Ngan), find themselves in the same convenience store. Another student, Grant Rice (Armand Jones) is frustrated at losing an arcade game and demands a refund from the owner. When he storms out, Eva's boyfriend attempts a drive-by shooting, wanting to kill Grant but misses, accidentally killing Sindy's boyfriend. As Eva is a witness, she must testify at court; she intends to protect her own kind in her testimony.

At school, Gruwell intercepts a racist drawing of one of her students and uses it to teach them about the Holocaust. She gradually begins to earn their trust and buys them composition books to record their diaries, in which they talk about their experiences of being abused, seeing their friends die, and being evicted. Determined to reform her students, she takes two part-time jobs to pay for more books and spends more time at school, to the disappointment of her husband (Patrick Dempsey). Her students start to behave with respect and learn more. A transformation is especially visible in one of her students, Marcus (Jason Finn). She invites several Holocaust survivors to talk with her class about their experiences and takes them on a field trip to the Museum of Tolerance. Meanwhile, her unorthodox teaching methods are scorned by her colleagues and department chair Margaret Campbell (Imelda Staunton). The next year comes, and Gruwell teaches her class again for sophomore (second) year. In class, when reading The Diary of Anne Frank, they invite Miep Gies (Pat Carroll), the woman who sheltered Anne Frank from the German soldiers to talk to them. After they raise the money to bring her over, she tells them her experiences hiding Anne Frank. When Marcus tells her that she is his hero, she denies it, claiming she was merely doing the right thing. Her denial causes Eva to rethink lying during her testimony. When she testifies, she finally breaks down and tells the truth, much to some of her family members' dismay. Meanwhile, Gruwell asks her students to write their diaries in book form. She compiles the entries and names it The Freedom Writers Diary.

Her husband divorces her and Margaret tells her she cannot teach her kids for their junior year. She fights this decision, eventually convincing the superintendent to allow her to teach her kids' junior and senior year. The film ends with a note that Gruwell successfully brought many of her students to graduation and college.


See also: Freedom Writers (soundtrack)

Common lent his talents to the soundtrack with "A Dream" , featuring and produced by Black Eyed Peas member The soundtrack also includes the Tupac Shakur song "Keep Ya Head Up".

Instrumental sections of Sia's "Breathe Me" accompany the film's television trailer.


This film was given a final rating of PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) for violent content, some thematic material, and language.


Hilary Swank Erin Gruwell
April Lee Hernández Eva Benitez
Jason Finn Marcus
Scott Glenn Steve Gruwell
Patrick Dempsey Scott Casey
Imelda Staunton Margaret Campbell
Mario Andre Bryant
Kristin Herrera Gloria Munez
Jaclyn Ngan Sindy Ngor
Sergio Montalvo Alejandro Santiago
Deance Wyatt Jamal Hill
Vanetta Smith Brandy Ross
Gabriel Chavarria Tito
Hunter Parrish Ben Samuels
Antonio García Miguel
Giovonnie Samuels Victoria
John Benjamin Hickey Brian Gelford
Robert Wisdom Dr. Carl Cohn
Pat Carroll Miep Gies
Armand Jones Grant Rice

External links

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