7.6/10
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119 user 113 critic

The Great Debaters (2007)

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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Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 11 wins & 9 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.
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Ruth Tolson
...
Sheriff Dozier
...
Pearl Farmer
...
Helen Farmer (as Devyn Tyler)
Trenton McClain Boyd ...
Nathaniel Farmer
...
Deputy
...
Pig Owner
...
Pig Farmer
...
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:

 »
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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
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This movie was the first, since 1979, to be allowed to film on Harvard's campus. See more »

Goofs

When James Farmer Jr. comes home after the late-night union meeting, he takes off his shoes. He ran through the woods, water, and mud to escape from the police, yet his pants are clean. See more »

Quotes

James Farmer Jr.: [opening package] Five dollars? Lowe, I got five dollars!
Henry Lowe: Yeah, I did too. It's called per diem. Want me to hold it for you?
James Farmer Jr.: No, not MY five dollars.
Samantha: [walks into the room waving her money in the air] I got five dollars! I got five dollars!
Henry Lowe: Yeah, me too.
Samantha: Well, mine is crisp.
[watches James gulp down a strawberry]
Samantha: James, this is high tea, all right? We nibble, we do not DEVOUR.
James Farmer Jr.: How do you know?
Samantha: [smiling] I don't.
See more »

Connections

References Men in White (1934) See more »

Soundtracks

Step It Up & Go
Performed by Alvin Youngblood Hart (as Alvin 'Youngblood' Hart) & Teenie Hodges
Produced by G. Marq Roswell
Traditional
Arranged by Alvin Youngblood Hart (as Alvin 'Youngblood' Hart) & G. Marq Roswell
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


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