Freedom Writers

Well now, I haven’t sobbed like that in a while!

I’m one of the programmers for the wonderful Regent Park Film Festival (in Toronto) and I just finished viewing a documentary film based on the Freedom Writers Diary which is about how a high school teacher helped to change the lives of her inner-city students through assigning books that they could relate to and encouraging them to keep a diary. One of the books they read included The Diary of Anne Frank and another one was the diary of Zlata Filipovic; the story was adapted for film/Hollywood in 2007 and stared Hilary Swank. I remember seeing that film but it sure did not grab me the way the doc did!

The students who shared their stories in this doc reinforced to me, once again (see last blog post),how relevant it is to have (at least one) teacher who believes in you and helps you to believe in yourself–a mentor. From the outset of my thesis development, I felt that I would need to demonstrate how important ‘alternative’ educational schools are; I imagined that most of the students who I would interview would tell me how they wished that their classes were more creatively taught and I’ve been equating that with alt ed. Creative teaching methods may very well exist more than I think in the public system but if the students do not feel a bond with their instructor, creativity may not be the ticket to high marks… although there’s no denying that it’s is a huge bonus.

I have been hooked on the idea of collaborating with a teacher, a student advisory group and a new-media artist to develop an innovative method of facilitating a lesson plan for a high school class (following this MFA degree); I will now keep in mind, however, that this creation alone will not produce miraculous enthusiasm. The students will have to ‘feel-the-love’ too!

By the way, will the film be programmed for the festival? You’ll have to wait and see… as will I in the coming weeks!

About cayoup

Colleen Ayoup was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec. She has been engaged in media creation for nearly twenty years. After attending the Dawson Institute of Photography (Montreal), she worked as a commercial photographer for several years until the craving for different creative pursuits gave way. This desire led to two subsequent degrees in Psychology/Film Studies and Film Production (B.A., B.F.A) at Concordia University in Montreal. Her short fiction films and documentary, Kings (2001), about drag-king culture in Montreal toured festivals internationally. In 2004, she joined the National Film Board of Canada where she coordinated Doc Shop, a program designed to give emerging filmmakers an opportunity to learn trade skills from industry professionals and produce a short documentary for broadcast on CBC. She also contributed to the development and creation of CitizenShift (, the NFB’s first social-media website that she subsequently coordinated for five years. She is a recent graduate of the Master of Fine Arts program in Documentary Media at Ryerson University (Toronto, ON)