7.6/10
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The Great Debaters (2007)

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A drama based on the true story of Melvin B. Tolson, a professor at Wiley College Texas. In 1935, he inspired students to form the school's first debate team, which went on to challenge Harvard in the national championship.

Director:

Denzel Washington

Writers:

Robert Eisele (screenplay), Robert Eisele (story) | 2 more credits »
Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 11 wins & 9 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Denzel Washington ... Melvin B. Tolson
Nate Parker ... Henry Lowe
Jurnee Smollett-Bell ... Samantha Booke (as Jurnee Smollett)
Denzel Whitaker ... James Farmer Jr.
Jermaine Williams ... Hamilton Burgess
Forest Whitaker ... Dr. James Farmer Sr.
Gina Ravera ... Ruth Tolson
John Heard ... Sheriff Dozier
Kimberly Elise ... Pearl Farmer
Devyn A. Tyler ... Helen Farmer (as Devyn Tyler)
Trenton McClain Boyd Trenton McClain Boyd ... Nathaniel Farmer
Ritchie Montgomery ... Deputy
Jackson Walker ... Pig Owner
Tim Parati ... Pig Farmer
Robert X. Golphin ... Dunbar Reed
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Storyline

Marshall, Texas, described by James Farmer, Jr. as "the last city to surrender after the Civil War," is home to Wiley College, where, in 1935-36, inspired by the Harlem Renaissance and his clandestine work as a union organizer, Professor Melvin Tolson coaches the debate team to a nearly-undefeated season that sees the first debate between U.S. students from white and Negro colleges and ends with an invitation to face Harvard University's national champions. The team of four, which includes a female student and a very young James Farmer, is tested in a crucible heated by Jim Crow, sexism, a lynch mob, an arrest and near riot, a love affair, jealousy, and a national radio audience. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

When the nation was in need, he inspired them to give us hope.


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for depiction of strong thematic material including violence and disturbing images, and for language and brief sexuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

25 December 2007 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Debate Pela Liberdade See more »

Filming Locations:

USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$15,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$3,604,000, 23 December 2007, Wide Release

Gross USA:

$30,226,144, 13 April 2008
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

DTS | SDDS | Dolby Digital

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

On December 19, 2007, Denzel Washington announced a $1 million dollar to Wiley College, so they could re-establish their debate team. See more »

Goofs

Prairie View, Texas is nowhere near Waxahachie, Texas. See more »

Quotes

James Farmer Jr.: We do what we have to do in order to do what we want to do.
See more »

Connections

References Bright Eyes (1934) See more »

Soundtracks

How Long Before I Can Change My Clothes?
Performed by Alvin Youngblood Hart (as Alvin 'Youngblood' Hart)
Produced by G. Marq Roswell
Traditional
Arranged by Alvin Youngblood Hart (as Alvin 'Youngblood' Hart)
See more »

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User Reviews

Great Sophomore Film by Denzel as a Director
23 December 2007 | by desiplayaSee all my reviews

Two words perfectly sum up this movie - inspirational and uplifting. I have not seen Antwone Fisher, but I will be sure to check it out after seeing this.

Before watching this, I had never even heard about Wiley College or what it did in the '30s, so not only is it great entertainment but it is also educational. I don't know how closely the movie follows the actual events so I can't point out the flaws, but it doesn't matter because the movie is brilliant and moving. This is an underdog movie and you'll be rooting for the Wiley College team throughout the movie. The acting is marvelous by all the actors, but recognition has to be given to the three stars that portray the debaters, Denzel Washington, and Forest Whitaker. Not only is Denzel great as an actor, he is even better as a director. As other reviewers have said, out of all the actors Denzel Whitaker is the star. His portrayal of James Farmer, Jr. is outstanding and this role will certainly further his acting career. Forest Whitaker doesn't have a huge role to play, but he performs his parts beautifully (for example the hog and the sheriff scenes).

Overall this is a very inspirational and uplifting movie. I wouldn't be surprised if it gets a few Oscar nods.

9/10


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