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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:

$6,005,180, 30 December 2007

Gross USA:

$30,236,407

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$30,271,556
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

The rapper Drake auditioned for a role in this movie. See more »

Goofs

The 1935 Wiley College debate team debated USC, not Harvard. In an interview, Denzel Washington said they used artistic license because Harvard has a better reputation. See more »

Quotes

Samantha: James, you know I value your friendship...
James Farmer Jr.: How can you value something you never had?
Samantha: So... we were never friends?
James Farmer Jr.: Maybe I don't want to be just your friend. Maybe it HURTS me to be just your friend!
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Youth in Revolt (2009) See more »

Soundtracks

When the Saints Come Marching In
Performed by the Grambling State University Marching Band Quartet
Traditional
Produced by G. Marq Roswell
See more »

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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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