How to capture the attention of people who don't want to listen?

Directed by Richard LaGravenese – 2007 – USA – 122 min

Freedom Writers

2022 February 16 | by Arduino Mancini Asking questions - Change management - Coaching - Listening effectively - Women's Stories

The film is based on the book: “The Freedom Writers Diary,” which tells the story of Erin Gruwell, an American teacher on her first job, who is assigned to Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, California.

Erin is a woman energetic and enthusiastic about her work, eager to contribute to the program of racial integration in schools, but she finds herself dealing with a situation dominated by the conflict between ethnic groups and by the hatred between her students.

Colleagues and management of the school, however, seem to be pervaded by a feeling of racism not even too veiled; they just want to get by, in the belief that one by one the children will end up leaving the school, losing themselves.

But Erin Gruwell is a professional who, despite the lack of support from colleagues and her family, faces her work with dedication and it will not take her long to acknowledge that the boys are not delinquents but people forced to live in a hostile environment dominated by violence and poverty.

Erin understands that the key to triggering change is to combat the hatred that permeates the classroom and she achieves her goal by having the children learn about the tragedy of the Holocaust and Anne Frank’s diary; milestones include a visit to the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, meeting nazi concentration camp survivors and then inviting the children to write a personal diary.

The content of the diaries impressed the teacher so much that she decided to turn them into a book: thus Freedom Writers Diary was born, taking its title because the students called themselves Freedom Writers in analogy with the Freedom Riders, the civil rights activists who in 1961 fought racial segregation in the south of the USA.

Now watch the trailer, then I’ll tell you what I think are the aspects you can pay attention to.

How to watch the film

Several topics might catch your attention, some overlooked by reviews you can find on the web:

  • the topic of teaching in difficult situations and the need to capture the attention of people initially uninterested in the matters under discussion;
  • the themes of tolerance and racial hatred, the need to look at the world through other people’s eyes and to accept diversity of thought, all approached through one of the greatest tragedies in human history: the Holocaust;
  • the relationship that links teacher and student when the first can help the second focus the vision of a realistic and desirable future;
  • in the marriage, the sustainability of the partner’s success, especially when the woman is the one who succeeds;
  • the organizations’ tendency to “sit back” and look at the problems without taking action, using the alibi of “nothing will change anyway”, and then obstructing in all ways those who are determined to change;
  • the defeat of the belief that “time spent trying to change is time lost”…;

I’m sure I missed aspects that you may identify and I hope you will point out with a comment.

The film should be seen by everyone and screened in schools. From a professional point of view, I suggest it be seen by:

  • the teachers who don’t know how to approach difficult classrooms and to anyone who lost, or never had, the light that Erin Gruwell has in her eyes;
  • the consultants and coaches who have the challenging task of generating change and helping people and organizations design a new future;
  • the managers, especially those who wait comfortably seated for the day to pass, persuaded that nothing will change.

Before introducing you to the cast, here is a short video in which you can hear the voices of Erin Gruwell and other main protagonists.


Enjoy your viewing!


Hilary Swank, Patrick Dempsey, Scott Glenn, April L. Hernandez, Hunter Parrish, Imelda Staunton, Margaret Campbell, Kristin Herrera, Jacklyn Ngan, Sergio Montalvo, Jason Finn, Mario Barrett

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