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The Great Debaters (2007)

7.6
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 41,372 users   Metascore: 65/100
Reviews: 112 user | 113 critic | 32 from Metacritic.com

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.

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(screenplay), (story), 2 more credits »
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Title: The Great Debaters (2007)

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Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 9 wins & 8 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
Henry Lowe
...
Samantha Booke (as Jurnee Smollett)
...
James Farmer Jr.
...
Hamilton Burgess
...
Dr. James Farmer Sr.
...
Ruth Tolson
...
Sheriff Dozier
...
Pearl Farmer
...
Helen Farmer (as Devyn Tyler)
...
Nathaniel Farmer
...
Deputy
...
Pig Owner
...
Pig Farmer
...
Dunbar Reed
Edit

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.

Genres:

Biography | Drama

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:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

25 December 2007 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Debate Pela Liberdade  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Budget:

$15,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$3,604,000 (USA) (21 December 2007)

Gross:

$30,226,144 (USA) (11 April 2008)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

| |

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The diploma hanging in Dr. James Farmer's study is an authentic copy provided to the art department by Boston University archivist Kara Jackman. See more »

Goofs

On the train, the combine is placed between the coach and the observation car, and the baggage car is in the back. At the time, large pieces of freight, like combines, were put at the front of the train, behind the baggage car. See more »

Quotes

Melvin B. Tolson: Anybody know who Willie Lynch was? Anybody? Raise your hand. No one? He was a vicious slave owner in the West Indies. The slave-masters in the colony of Virginia were having trouble controlling their slaves, so they sent for Mr. Lynch to teach them his methods. The word "lynching" came from his last name. His methods were very simple, but they were diabolical. Keep the slave physically strong but psychologically weak and dependent on the slave master. Keep the body, take the mind.
See more »

Connections

Featured in Siskel & Ebert: Episode dated 22 December 2007 (2007) See more »

Soundtracks

Delta Serenade
Performed by David Berger & The Sultans of Swing
Produced by G. Marq Roswell & David Berger
Written by Duke Ellington (as Edward Ellington), Mann Curtis (as Manny Kurtz),
Irving Mills
Courtesy of Such Sweet Thunder Recordings
See more »

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User Reviews

Great Sophomore Film by Denzel as a Director
23 December 2007 | by (United States) – See 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


63 of 82 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
These are the kind of black movies... Ozyre Cekda
Anyone else notice a slightly Communist/Socialist slant to the film? g_wales
Great movie, but large mistake made at the end... Metfan2987
The story is a lie jonathanlerner111
The lynch scene rujivachirapong
Academy awards racist neal66
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