by Emily Wedell
Freedom Writers is a movie based off of the book, The Freedom Writers Diary. The novel, which was published in 1999, and did not come out on film until 2007. The movie can be found in most libraries, especially school libraries, and is available over Netflix DVD. The film, like most books that are also produced as movies, doesn’t quite do justice to the intricacies of the novel or the characters of the students, but is still an inspirational film. The movie is about the students of Classroom 203 in Wilson High School in Long Beach, California. Ms. Erin Gruwell is a first-time teacher who is propelled into a classroom divided by race and gang affiliations. Gruwell uses her unique teaching style to reach and educate the students, despite resistance from her husband, father, and fellow teachers. While a movie about education may not sound particularly exciting, the movie, produced by MTV, offers a modern, fairly accurate presentation of the struggles of racism and how violence can manifest. The scriptwriters and actors had believable interactions and dialogue; there weren’t many parts that were glaringly scripted. The hip-hop music used was a good fit for the theme and tone of the movie, and added a little authenticity to the film.
I think students from suburbs or small towns, especially those in the Midwest who have had minimal exposure to racism and gang activity outside of the news, could learn a lot from this movie. The first time I saw this movie, I was in high school, with what I thought was already decent knowledge of this subculture. However, the one thing my knowledge lacked was the humanity: the struggles and pain of the victims and participants alike. While Ms. Gruwell’s education strategy may not work in all situations, it gave a different angle to the situation. I think students from the Midwest are very sheltered when it comes to seeing this violence and struggle in real life; movies are definitely different from real-life, and I think that this movie helps bridge that gap and makes audiences gain a higher level of understanding.