Directed by Nura Gudaal Starring Bryony Cole, Ify E, King Tshikeva, Stephen Odubola, Gulied Osman, Glody Kinkiani, Nekkita Hollett, Moesha Barker
Short film review by Hannah Sayer
Clever and thought-provoking in its handling of its subject matter, Freedom Writers is a short film which explores the effects on a group of black teenagers when a race crime is committed against a person of colour by a group of white males.
The film opens with a news style introduction recounting that a “Racial Stabbing” has taken place in Finsbury the previous night. A 16 year old Samuel Brown is the victim of the crime, who later died at the scene, when he was ambushed by a group of white males shouting racial abuse. This is effective in setting the scene for a film with an incredibly short running time, but it also allows for Nura Gudaal to comment on how the media relates crime to the public and how this can often cause a negative response.
By choosing to film the events of the film in a small classroom, this creates a claustrophobic and intense tone from the outset. These at risk teenagers have been deemed incapable of learning in this racially divided London school when their dedicated teacher walks in on a situation where one of the students has removed a pocket knife from his person. Thinking of the dangers this could pose if this was used in retaliation, due in part to what had occurred the previous night, the teacher decides to discuss the issues surrounding this; gangs, violence and racism.
Choosing to have a white female as the teacher in this case allows for many issues to be raised by the filmmakers, particularly when one of the students explains that she wouldn’t understand due to her colour. It is sad that it is poignant and a relevant topic of discussion in our society today when you consider that still “It’s all about colour.” When asked about the Holocaust, none of the students know what it is, yet they all raise their hands when asked if they’ve been shot at. The zoomed in closing shot with just the teacher’s shocked face in the frame is uncomfortable viewing, as the awkward realisation can be seen just from her facial expression. This is powerful filmmaking as instantly everything is put into perspective.
It is a shame that this short is not in fact a longer piece, as there is not enough time for the discussion to develop even further. However, even though the ending is abrupt and you’re left wanting more, this is evidence that Freedom Writers has excelled in capturing the curiosity of the viewer by expertly tackling the issues of racial crime and how it is still prevalent as needing to be discussed.