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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

Denzel Whitaker, who plays Forest Whitaker's character's son, is not related to him or Denzel Washington. See more »

Goofs

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

Quotes

Ruth Tolson: [hands Tolson a letter] Here, this came. Go on, open it.
Melvin B. Tolson: [noticing the broken seal] Hmm, looks like someone already opened it.
Ruth Tolson: [smiling mischievously] Not me.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Half in the Bag: Red Tails (2012) See more »

Soundtracks

My Soul is a Witness
Performed by Alvin Youngblood Hart & Sharon Jones
Produced by G. Marq Roswell
Traditional
Arranged by Alvin Youngblood Hart, Sharon Jones & G. Marq Roswell
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User Reviews

 
You should see this film
20 December 2007 | by PhillipcgolubSee all my reviews

I say this because: 1) The acting is remarkable. Denzel Washington, Forest Whitaker, Nate Parker, Jurnee Smollett, Denzel Whitaker, and Kimberly Elise are all stunningly good 2) The cinematography is very well done and the score is beautifully and uplifting. 3) The story is great. It has multiple underdog themes which when watching, you root so much for the underdog it actually hurts :). These would be: a) the black people in the south in the 1930s b) little Wiley collage (especially when they are vs Harvard) c) the 14 year old boy James P. Farmer Jr. (Denzel Whitaker) who is seemingly incapable at first of debating. Do yourself a favor and see "The Great Debaters". You are going to love it.


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