about: The Great Debaters is a 2007 film produced by Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Productions, based on an article about the Wiley College debate team by Tony Scherman written for American Legacy for its '97 Spring issue. It is directed by Denzel Washington who also stars in the film along with Forest Whitaker, Kimberly Elise, Denzel Whitaker, Nate Parker, Gina Ravera, and Jurnee Smollett. The screenplay was written by Suzan-Lori Parks and Robert Eisele. It was released on December 25, 2007.
The film, loosely based on a true story, revolves around the efforts of debate coach Melvin B. Tolson (Denzel Washington) at historically black Wiley College to place his team on equal footing with whites in the American south during the 1930s, when Jim Crow laws were common and lynch mobs were a pervasive fear for blacks. In the movie, the Wiley team eventually succeeds to the point where they are able to take part in a debate with Harvard University.
The film was the first since 1979 to be allowed to film on Harvard's campus.
It is also the first film to feature two African Americans who had previously won the Academy Award for Best Actor (Denzel Washington for Training Day, and Forest Whitaker for The Last King of Scotland).
my review: With Antwone Fisher and now The Great Debaters, Denzel Washington has proven himself to be a good director. He has managed to make two films with an all black cast that are not comedies and don't star Tyler Perry.
However, The Great Debaters starts off as a really interesting film but then towards the middle, it starts to become lazy. I was really getting into it. The scenes with Forest Whitaker and his family, Denzel's character, and the debates. But then there is this whole other subplot where two boys like the same girl and all this drama happens. I doubt this happened to the real debate team and it is unnecessary to the movie. I started to feel like I was watching an episode of The Hills.
The debates also started to get really boring. Denzel never really tries to make them interesting or a little more exciting. I'm pretty sure they weren't action packed in real life but that was part of the story that could have used a little fiction and not the romance triangle.
The Great Debaters is still a good watch nonetheless. Learn about a piece of black history that I didn't know about and you probably didn't either. But, be prepared for the slow drama of romance that isn't needed.
my rating: 6 out of 10