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Film Analysis Iss 318

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A Brief Film Analysis


Nikki Atchley


Dr. Jodi Yelinek

ISS 318

Michigan State University

March 11, 2019

A Brief Film Analysis

Film Summary and Characters

Freedom Writers is a film that was inspired by a true story of defying odds. The students who later become the “freedom writers” are a melting pot of freshman high schoolers. Ms. Erin Gruwell was a white and privileged teacher with no experience at the time. Erin’s father was a Civil Rights activist and she aspired to follow in her father’s footsteps. However, her belief was that if she could become a teacher in an integrated school, she could target the issues in the classroom that later become racial problems in the future. Although Erin was very prepared to become a teacher, she was not prepared for the reality of what the students she was about to teach had to live on a daily basis.

        Erin Gruwell was faced with the challenge of teaching 9th grade English to students with 5th and 6th grade reading levels. However, their reading efficiencies wasn’t even the most difficult part of teaching this class. The problem was the segregation and the hatred the students showed for each other and also Erin Gruwell. Erin was shocked when she found the violence that was reality on a day to day basis at the high school. She noticed the violence was purely between the different ethnic groups. Erin Gruwell knew there was a problem with hatred and violence within the school and specifically her classroom, but she had a breaking point when a student was targeted by another student being racist. Ms. Gruwell sees more than a future of running the streets for these students. She is one of few, and maybe the only one in many of the student’s lives that sees potential in them. From that day on her goal was to show her students that life beyond the streets is amazing, as well as breaking cultural barriers.

Ms. Gruwell gave the students journals, to write whatever they wanted to write, and she’d only read them if they wanted her to read them. To her surprise, the next day she opened up her cabinet to find that every student had turned in their journal for her to read. She was able to learn more about the struggles and difficulties of everyday life for her students through the journals. More than she ever expected.

        The film began with Eva’s story. Eva is a Latina girl that was born and raised in the gang life. Eva ran the streets and was keen on protecting her own. She is portrayed as a mature, tough young woman. Eva states that she “hates white people” because it was white cops that took her father away, and white teachers that never cared. The only sense of family or trust she ever found was with Latina gang members. As Eva later develops trust and respect for Ms. Gruwell, she finds a new home is room 203 with her classmates. Eva is inspired when Miep Gies speaks to the students because she says she did the things she did because “It was the right thing to do.” When Eva needs to testify in court, she is asked who shot the Asian man at the convenience store. Eva tells the truth even though she knows there will be serious consequences. Eva realizes there is more to life than just gang life. She develops a moral compass that leads her to find a new sense of direction and make decisions based on her own thoughts instead of the way she was raised to think by her father and other gang members.  

        Andre is an African American that is soft spoken and later reveals that he lives a very tough life at home. After his father left, and his brother was put on trial to go to prison, his own mother cannot even look at him. He develops respect for Erin Gruwell and sees the opportunities beyond gang life and drug dealing. After reading a book about jurors saving an innocent man from prison time, he has hope for his brother. When reality doesn’t turn out like the end result in the book, he becomes upset and gives up on himself. When Ms. Gruwell told her students to evaluate themselves, he gives himself an “F”. Ms. Gruwell checks Andre and tells him he cannot give up on himself, because he is then disrespecting her as well as himself. Andre is saddened by her giving him a reality check, but he realizes that Ms. Gruwell truly cares, so he perseveres.

        Marcus is another African American student that came from a rough upbringing. Marcus chose the gang life instead of living with his mother. He believed that he would gain respect when he died from the streets. He stated “We graduate every day we live, we in a war” …. “I’ll be lucky if I even make it to 18.” Marcus’s mindset completely changed when he read The Diary of Anne Frank. He was especially inspired by Miep Geis and declared her as his hero. He read many books about Miep Geis and went beyond the classroom to learn. Marcus finds reason in his life to change and show the world that he is beyond a stereotype. Marcus decides to come back to his mother and ask to move back in, he tells her he wants off the streets.

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