Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Movie Review: Freedom Writers

Freedom Writers appears to have a typical script.
An aspiring young teacher goes out of her way to help and inspire her lowly students.
A plot like this can make an inspiring movie.
Now add this, Freedom Writers is based on a true story.
This gives proximity. It could be a nice movie.
Now put Hilary Swank as the lead in the film.
This movie could be good with the two-time Academy Award winner starring in it.
But in reality you still may not want to watch this movie.

I found myself walking into the cinema knowing only 3 things about Freedom Writers:
1. Freedom Writers is the title of the film.
2. The plot is based on a true story.
3. Hilary Swank.

Why then watch it?

I was intrigued by the film title.
I wanted to know what happened to the students and how the teacher helped them.
I knew that the students wrote journals.
I knew that by writing about our feelings and thoughts it helps in the discovery and development of finding and affirming one’s self-worth.
Writing is a good outlet for your inner voice to be heard and it needs to be expressed.
Writing releases us from the emotional walls that block us in.
We felt trapped, stressed and helpless.
This usually leads to outwardly negative behaviours.
The students in the film showed these effects.

I was looking for inspiration. I got more than inspiration. I got hope.
Erin Gruwell (Hilary Swank) provided it.
When no one cared for the students, she dared.
She refused to believe her students were “unteachable” as branded by other teachers and the academic system.
To begin with, the students did not even want to be helped.
But with high moral integrity she showed the highest esteem a human being could get, and yet in her humble words she only wanted to do her job.

“To get respect you first have to give respect.”
It cannot be truer. Erin Gruwell respected every student in his or her own right.
She made it a point to understand and not judge, to look under the surface.

The synopsis hardly gives this movie enough credit.
Get this. This is a true story. The influence should be greater.
This is the real deal. Someone in our society made a difference.

After watching it, I had this thought:
“Why hadn’t more been done to promote this film?”
I mean this is a film I felt everyone should see.
I understand that this film may not have the commercial value of movies that can be more entertaining in the sense that it is not comedic, it is not thrilling, there are no hard hitting action, there are no adventure to be told, there are no mystery to be solved, and it may not even be the most touching movie ever made, but it is a powerful film with a strong message that can be applied to every individual and community.

It is powerful because like the students in the film, we had or could have met the same situations in life.
Put it simply, we were once or could be teenagers and students, we have different family backgrounds, we go through the similar process of growing up, should you dig deeper into your past and more of these relations should appear.
There is a big lesson here to be learned for if we think our problems are big, we probably are not aware of the larger world around us.
If we hate or are critical of others it’s probably because we do not understand what is really happening.
It is all too easy to categorize and stereotype others.
When we see one monkey we had seen them all we tell ourselves.
But we are not monkeys, we are people, no doubt our diversity in language, culture and skin tone, we are people nonetheless.
We do not recognize that we have much in common and we do not give respect enough to each other.

We fill the world with images of war, violence and hate. Why?
Is this the right thing to do?
If that is all the young ones get exposed to then these will be what we will get.
What values are we imparting to the world?
We couldn’t care less could we?

I like the way director Richard LaGravenese detailed the scene in the beginning of the film where the two senior teachers paid attention to Erin Gruwell’s pearl necklace when first introduced to her.
I’m quite sure the intention was to reflect how most of us view the world around us.
I leave you to figure it out.

Lastly, Freedom Writers say you can make a difference.
I say you can start by watching this film.

Movie link:
Get to know the Freedom Writers:

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