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Great Debaters

1 rating: 3.0
A movie directed by Denzel Washington

IN THEATRES DECEMBER 25, 2007 <br> <br> Denzel Washington directs and stars in this uplifting drama based on a true story about a small East Texas all-black college in 1935 that rises to the top of the nation's debate teams in a duel against … see full wiki

Tags: Movies, Dramas
Director: Denzel Washington
Release Date: 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13
1 review about Great Debaters

The Great Debaters - 2007

  • Mar 15, 2011
Pros: writing, acting, story

Cons: none for me

The Bottom Line:
"We live and die with our opinions
I`m not saying it`s not anything
It`s just not everything
If a problem doesn`t stare you back"

Director Denzel Washington took on the role of Melvin Tolson in the release of The Great Debaters.  It was written by Robert Eisele, nominated for 16 awards, winning 7.  I found it interesting to see it was rated PG-13 for strong thematic material, violence, disturbing images, language, and sexuality.  The reason for that strange thought was the last movie I watched, Facing the Giants, received the same rating simply because it carried strong religious overtones.  The rating system boggles the mind considering there was a lynching in this movie - odd.

The story:
It is the mid-1930's in Marshall, Texas, at Wiley College.  Melvin Tolson  is an extremely passionate teacher but also a bit of a rebel at heart.  He decides to start the first debate team at Wiley, and interviews students for the position.  He ends up with four students - one a bit of a playboy and the other a quiet thinker; second seat to these two is a woman which is practically unheard of and a young 14 year old student.  Although it is never fully explained I figure the 14 year old is some sort of prodigy and it doesn't hurt his father plays a big part in the town either.

Their success is unbelievable as they steadily climb a one-sided ladder.  It is Tolson's goal to get them in a debate against a white university which, also, isn't tolerated in this time era.  Finally he throws down the gauntlet and Harvard takes the bite.

The actors:
Denzel Washington in this role is a familiar character.  We've seen him in similar roles many times but he is so accomplished, so polished, we don't mind watching him once again.  He held a fiery presence and proved what was necessary to promote his students and his college.

Joining him are the debaters: Nate Parker as the playboy; Jermaine Williams as the quiet thinker; Jurnee Smollett as the tempting siren; and Denzel Whitaker as the 14 year old James Farmer [interesting joining of names, his mother must have been inspired by greatness].  Oddly enough, although no relation, Forest Whitaker played young James' father in the movie.  John Heard took on the role of the closed minded sheriff.

From the beginning each character forms a persona which evolves and changes throughout the movie.  Everyone is affected and everyone changes.

The situation:
The times weren't the best, especially in the south.  The team, and college, had to overcome many hurdles on their path to the top, facing tremendous racial controversy.  Tolson took on the role similar to a coach on any team - keep your eye on the goal and fight your way to it.  In much the same vein as Facing the Giants, this was a highly inspirational film. 

This film also carries a high degree of racial content, which was prevalent during this era.  The lynching was particulary brutal to view.  There is also some controversy concerning the introduction of the unions to the farm workers, which are predominately black. 

DVD extras:
behind the scenes; interviews with Washington, Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey [OK Oprah, we get it, enough already.  When they change the statement to "In Oprah We Trust" then, and only then, we will bow at your feet in sublimation].

Overall impression:
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this.  I've never totally understood the whole debating thing but, then again, I've never totally understood the whole proof in mathematics thing either.  The film was well done if a bit grim at times.  Acting was very good and the characters were quite exciting at times when they became enthralled in their debates.



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March 21, 2011
Don't laugh, this is one of those films that I haven't finished watching yet; I always get distracted from it for different reasons. Thanks for the reminder!
March 22, 2011
::snarf snarf::
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