The Great Debaters (2007)


Movie Review

Directed by: Denzel Washington

Starring: Denzel Washington, Forest Whitaker, Jurnee Smollett, Nate Parker, and Denzel Whitaker

In the 1930s, Melvin Tolson (Denzel Washington) is the coach of the debate team at Wiley College, a southern HBCU.  Tolson is determined to get his debate team to be regarded as highly as a team at any white college.  Tolson intends to make it clear to America that blacks are on equal intellectual footing with whites.  This is no small task in the era of Jim Crow laws and the bigotry that pervades American society.  Tolson succeeds though and leads his team to Cambridge, MA to face off with Harvard University's debate team. 

The Great Debaters is a rousing journey back in time to a younger America torn asunder by racism and discrimination.  With Denzel Washington and Forest Whitaker leading the cast, we get one hell of a powerful film.  Denzel Washington's directorial effort shows that he can work just as effectively behind the camera as he does in front of it.  In taking us back to this horrible time, he leaves no stone unturned.  He covers the backward, racist social constructs of the era in painful detail while showing how strong black people of the past began to overcome these societal barriers.   Don't even think about a drink for this one!  It's a good history lesson (though there are some historical inaccuracies in this period piece), so show some respect and stay sober.



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