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Many of you will remember the name Erin Gruwell from her New York Times bestseller, The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them.

The marquee-broadening title was later shortened to Freedom Writers and brought to the screen as a feature starring Hilary Swank as Gruwell, a high school teacher assigned the lowest-performing students at Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, California.


Erin Gruwell, teacher and founder of the Freedom Writers Foundation.

The educator with the unorthodox style will speak before a congregation of orthodox cinephiles at this Sunday's San Diego Jewish Film Festival The Power of Hope season kick-off event. An exclusive Underwriter Reception begins at 6:15 p.m. with a screening of Stories From an Undeclared War at 7:15 p.m. Erin Gruwell will be on hand for a post-show discussion.


Hilary Swank as Erin Gruwell.

Stories From an Undeclared War is the non-fiction account of the 150 students who were inspired by Gruwell and The Diary of Anne Frank. SDJFF describes the documentary as one "told entirely in cinema-vérité, through the voices of the students themselves, the documentary goes far beyond the feature film Freedom Writers, exploring the lives of the students beyond the classroom, along with the ramifications and long-term impact of telling their stories."

The Power of Hope gala will be held in the David & Dorothea Garfield Theatre of the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center, 4126 Executive Drive, La Jolla. For more information call 858-362-1330.

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