'Freedom Writers' author to show movie, give talk


A movie about a young teach­er who gained fame for guid­ing stu­dents thought to be “un­teach­able” will be screened next week in North­east High School’s aud­it­or­i­um.

And that teach­er, Erin Gruwell, will be there to in­tro­duce the film and an­swer ques­tions at its con­clu­sion.

Stor­ies from an Un­declared War, which chron­icles Gruwell’s suc­cess­ful struggle to reach and teach at-risk stu­dents who later be­come known as the Free­dom Writers, will be in the spot­light on Tues­day at 6 p.m.

The story of the first-year Los Angeles teach­er and her stu­dents might sound fa­mil­i­ar. How those stu­dents changed them­selves and gradu­ated already was the sub­ject of a best-selling book, The Free­dom Writers Di­ary, and Free­dom Writers, a 2007 movie that starred Hil­lary Swank as Gruwell.

Stor­ies from an Un­declared War, however, is a doc­u­ment­ary that presents the story from a dif­fer­ent angle. It in­cludes per­son­al in­ter­views with Gruwell and some of her stu­dents.

Those stu­dents, all 150 of them, gradu­ated from high school and went on to col­lege or ca­reers. They began the Free­dom Writers Found­a­tion to spread the word. The doc­u­ment­ary con­tains in­tim­ate ac­counts from Gruwell’s stu­dents.

Why is a doc­u­ment­ary about a West Coast edu­cat­or and her stu­dents premier­ing at North­east High? The an­swer’s not all that com­plic­ated.

First, the film is “a cel­eb­ra­tion of teach­ers,” Gruwell said in a phone in­ter­view on Oct. 12.

Second, Gruwell is a fan of Tony Danza’s best-selling book, I’d Like to Apo­lo­gize to Every Teach­er I Ever Had, which chron­icles the TV star’s stint teach­ing Eng­lish in 2009-10 for a show broad­cast on A&E, said as­sist­ant prin­cip­al Rob Caroselli.

Gruwell said Danza wrote about her, too.

“It’s mu­tu­al ad­mir­a­tion,” she said.

Gruwell also knows North­east teach­er Joseph Con­nelly. The Free­dom Writers Found­a­tion provided him with a schol­ar­ship to study in Cali­for­nia.

Con­nelly told Gruwell that he’d like her to come to North­east, she said.

The film is mak­ing the rounds of film fest­ivals right now, Gruwell said, and the de­tails of a the­at­ric­al re­lease have not been com­pleted.

Ad­mis­sion to the show­ing is free, Caroselli said. ••End­Frag­ment 

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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