Freedom Writers

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Freedom Writers
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRichard LaGravenese
Produced byDanny DeVito
Michael Shamberg
Stacey Sher
Screenplay byRichard LaGravenese
Based onThe Freedom Writers Diary
by Erin Gruwell and her class
StarringHilary Swank
Scott Glenn
Imelda Staunton
Patrick Dempsey
Music byMark Isham
CinematographyJim Denault
Edited byDavid Moritz
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • January 5, 2007 (2007-01-05)
Running time
122 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$21 million
Box office$43.1 million

Freedom Writers is a 2007 drama film written and directed by Richard LaGravenese and starring Hilary Swank, Scott Glenn, Imelda Staunton, Patrick Dempsey and Mario.

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 movie is also based on the DC program called City at Peace. 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.[1]


In 1994, in Long Beach, California, Erin Gruwell (Hilary Swank) has been accepted to teach English for at-risk students at Woodrow Wilson High School, a once highly acclaimed school, but where racial tensions have increased since the Los Angeles Riots two years prior. Erin struggles to connect to her students and she experiences numerous fights between some students, who are in rival gangs.

One night, Eva Benitez (April L. Hernandez), her boyfriend, and a friend go to a convenience store. Sindy (Jaclyn Ngan), a Cambodian refugee, frequents the same convenience store. Grant Rice (Armand Jones), an African-American student at Woodrow Wilson, frustrated at losing an arcade game, demands a refund from the store owner. As Grant storms out of the store, Eva's boyfriend, Paco (as retaliation for losing a fight against Grant that took place earlier during a gang fight at Woodrow Wilson), attempts a drive-by shooting 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, most of whom have no knowledge of. 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 school year comes, and Gruwell teaches her class (now sophomores) again, making it the second year that she is their teacher. On the first day of semester, Gruwell makes her class do a "Toast for Change", allowing everyone to open up about their struggles and what they wish to change about themselves. Later on, the class makes enough money to have Miep Gies to arrive to the United States and tell her experience when she helped Anne Frank, her family, and the Van Pels hide from the Nazis; she then also persuades the students that they are heroes and that they "within their own small ways, [can] turn on a small light in a dark room." These two events inspire Eva to break free of the demands of her father to always protect her own rather than tell the truth. At Grant's trial, she shocks the courtroom by revealing that Paco actually killed Sindy's boyfriend in the store; Grant is spared of being convicted and Sindy later forgives Eva. On leaving the court, Eva is attacked and threatened but ultimately spared 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 during their junior and senior years, much to their elation. 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 Happyness (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, 70% 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."[2] 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".[3] 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."[4] The film received a positive rating from Fox Weekly, giving the film a 9 out of 10.[5]

Chloé Valdary says that seeing the film inspired her to become politically active.[6]


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:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Actor's death eerily similar to film role". Orange County Register. July 14, 2012. Retrieved March 2, 2018.
  2. ^ Freedom Writers at Rotten Tomatoes
  3. ^ "Freedom Writers". Metacritic. Retrieved 6 January 2013.
  4. ^ "Freedom Writers". Common Sense Media. Retrieved 6 January 2013.
  5. ^ "Review: 'Freedom Writers' (2007)". Fox Weekly. Retrieved 28 March 2014.
  6. ^ 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[edit]