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Freedom Writers

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Subject: Erin Gruwell, Hilary Swank, Patrick Dempsey, Richard LaGravenese, Robert Wisdom
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Freedom Writers

Freedom Writers
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Richard LaGravenese
Produced by Danny DeVito
Michael Shamberg
Stacey Sher
Screenplay 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
Cinematography Jim Denault
Edited by David Moritz
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • January 5, 2007 (2007-01-05)
Running time
122 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $21 million
Box office $43,090,741

Freedom Writers is a 2007 dramatic 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 Eastside, Long Beach, California. The title is a play on the term "Freedom Riders", referring to the multiracial 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 film was dedicated to the memory of Armand Jones, who was killed after wrapping up Freedom Writers. He was 18 and was shot to death in Anaheim, California after a confrontation with a man who robbed Jones of a necklace in a Denny's restaurant.


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Release 3
  • Reception 4
    • Impact 4.1
  • Soundtrack 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


Woodrow Wilson is a formerly high-achieving school which has encountered some difficulties bearing its new racial integration plan. Gruwell's enthusiasm is challenged when she finds her class is composed of "at-risk" students, the "untouchables," and not the eager-for-college students she expected. Her students self-segregate into racial groups within the classroom. This is problematic, as gang fights break out and, consequently, most of her students stop attending class. Not only is Gruwell challenged with gaining her students' trust on personal and academic levels, but she must do so with very little support from her professional peers and district higher-ups. For example, her department head refuses to provide Gruwell with an adequate number of books for her class because she insists they will get damaged and lost. Instead, she suggests that Gruwell focuses on instilling concepts of discipline and obedience in her classroom.

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

At school, Gruwell intercepts a racist drawing by one of her high school students and utilizes 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 high school students, Gruwell takes on two part-time jobs to pay for more books and spends a lot more time at school, much to the disappointment of her husband (Patrick Dempsey). Her students start to behave with respect and discover a lot more. A transformation is specifically visible in one student, Marcus (Jason Finn). Gruwell invites various Jewish Holocaust survivors to talk with her class about their experiences and requires the students to attend a field trip to the Museum of Tolerance. Meanwhile, her unique training methods are scorned by her colleagues and department chair Margaret Campbell (Imelda Staunton).

The following semester comes, and Gruwell teaches her class again, making it the second semester of her being their teacher. On the first day of sophomore semester, Gruwell makes her class do a "Toast for Change", allowing everyone to open up about their struggles and how they by members of her gang and ends up going to live with her aunt in order to keep herself safe.

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. Gruwell fights this decision, eventually convincing the superintendent to permit her to teach her kids' junior and senior year. The film ends with a note that Gruwell successfully prepared numerous high school students to graduate high school and attend college, for many the first in their families to do so.



Freedom Writers had a domestic gross of $36,605,602 and had a foreign gross of $6,485,139 bringing the movie to a total gross of $43,090,741 worldwide. On the film's opening weekend it grossed a total of $9,405,582 ranking 4th behind Children of Men (3rd), The Pursuit of Happiness (2nd), and Night at the Museum (1st).


Freedom Writers has received mostly positive reviews from critics. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes provides links to 124 reviews, 69% of which are positive. The critical consensus is that "Freedom Writers is a frank, formulaic entry in the inspirational inner-city teacher genre, with an energetic Hilary Swank leading the appealing cast of unknowns." [1] Another review aggregator, Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, calculated an average score of 64/100 based on 29 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[2] Cynthia Fuchs of Common Sense Media gave the film three out of five stars, writing in her review that "the plot is predictable, the actors too old to play high school students, and the pacing too slow. And really, the camera circles around deep-thinking faces a few too many times. But Freedom Writers also argues for listening to teenagers. That in itself makes it a rare and close-to-wonderful thing."[3] The film received a positive rating from Fox Weekly, giving the film a 9 out of 10.[4]


Chloé Valdary says that seeing the film inspired her to become politically active.[5]


Common lent his talents to the soundtrack with "A Dream", featuring and produced by The 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.

The Freedom Writers soundtrack contains the following songs:

  • "Keep Ya Head Up" by 2Pac

See also


  1. ^ Freedom Writers at Rotten Tomatoes
  2. ^ "Freedom Writers". Metacritic. Retrieved 6 January 2013. 
  3. ^ "Freedom Writers". Common Sense Media. Retrieved 6 January 2013. 
  4. ^ "Review: ‘Freedom Writers’ (2007)". Fox Weekly. Retrieved 28 March 2014. 
  5. ^ Weiss, Anthony (9 September 2014). "Chloe Valdary: Christian, black, rising star of pro-Israel campus activism". Times of Israel (Times of Israel). Retrieved 28 October 2014. 

External links

  • Official website
  • Freedom Writers at the Internet Movie Database
  • Freedom Writers at AllMovie
  • Freedom Writers at Box Office Mojo
  • Freedom Writers at Rotten Tomatoes
  • Freedom Writers at Metacritic
  • Production NotesFreedom Writers
  • interview with educator Erin Gruwell and real-life Freedom Writer Maria Reyes on "Freedom Writers"
  • 'Cinematical' interview with Erin Gruwell, Jason Finn, and Maria Reyes
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