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:
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Samantha Booke (as Jurnee Smollett)
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Pearl Farmer
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Helen Farmer (as Devyn Tyler)
Trenton McClain Boyd ...
Nathaniel Farmer
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Deputy
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Pig Owner
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Pig Farmer
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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:

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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

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

| |

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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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

When Samantha is participating in her first debate at Oklahoma City, she mentions World War I in her argument. In 1935, this war would have been referred to as the "Great War", since a World War II had not yet occurred. See more »

Quotes

Melvin B. Tolson: We'll be one of the first Negro colleges to ever debate a white college. If we beat them, we beat the best.
See more »

Connections

Featured in 73rd Golden Globe Awards (2016) See more »

Soundtracks

Rock and Rye
Performed by David Berger & The Sultans of Swing
Produced by G. Marq Roswell & David Berger
Written by James R. Mundy
Courtesy of Such Sweet Thunder Recordings
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Though I speak with the tongues of angels, but have not love....
24 December 2007 | by See all my reviews

"The Great Debaters" is a very fine film.

It reminds us of what it means to be excellent, to stand for something good, to love with all our hearts, and to shine.

The performances, or the cinematography, historical care, or directorship all lift it out of the ordinary.

And in its difficult subject: racial tension and the education and discovery of values by the three young debaters from Wiley College, one of the oldest colleges in America, it creates real excitement and interest.

But the real reason that this is a fine film lies in is its plea that in education lies the reasoning, the power, and the will to change history. That learning lies not just in knowledge but also in applying that knowledge to better yourself, your world, and all of humanity.

The very significant point of the film is at the end. I can forgive the slight drag here and there because the ending is magnificent and explains something crucial about American history by its finish.

From an era when bigotry, racism, and degrading behavior was a wretched norm to our era where values are mutable, where dumbing down has no limits, and taste little place; "The Great Debaters" stands out as being a story that stands against all of these things.

The rating says it all: excellent.


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