7.6/10
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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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ON DISC
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:

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Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film features both Denzel Washington and Forest Whitaker, as well as a young actor named Denzel Whitaker, who is not related to either, but plays the son of the latter's character. See more »

Goofs

In 1935, Marshall, Texas, was major rail center, not a one-track whistle stop. See more »

Quotes

Henry Lowe: A brilliant young woman I know was asked once to support her argument in favor of social welfare. She named the most powerful source imaginable: the look in a mother's face when she cannot feed her children. Can you look that hungry child in the eyes? See the blood on his feet from working barefoot in the cotton fields. Or do you ask his baby sister with her belly swollen from hunger if she cares about her daddy's work ethics?
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Connections

Referenced in Jeopardy!: The IBM Challenge: Day 3 (2011) 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
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User Reviews

 
Elucidating entertainment
28 December 2007 | by See all my reviews

THE GREAT DEBATERS is a movie-going treat, with young people exemplifying truth, respect, pride and dignity. In an entertaining way, with some preaching, this movie shows four African-American debaters succeeding in the face of adversity, growing stronger with success AND defeat. Their debates are lively and thought provoking.

However, before, during and after these contests, other serious and complicated issues are revealed. Two of these issues deal with a confrontation on the road between two farmers and a minister, and a lynching in the middle of the night. Both are reflections of the time, unsettling and disturbing to those in the movie and in the audience.

This is not family entertainment, nor is it mindless entertainment. It has no gratuitous sex, but there is a hint of romance. It is fast paced, but the action is verbal – not physical. THE GREAT DEBATERS lives up to its name in that it has something for everyone, and not everyone will like it. I recommend this movie to anyone who enjoys a quality film that will be debated by all who see it!


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