CRITIQUE:” The Great Debaters" was Denzel
Washington's second venture as movie director/ actor, but his efforts were
far from sophomoric. He took a story of words and made it a story of drama
and power. Lacking those elements central to a blockbuster, excessive danger
and action, Denzel took the Wiley College story and made it a success.
"Words are your weapons" extolled Melvin Tolson, Denzel's
What was significant about a small Negro college in east Texas during the
1930s to garner the attention of Oprah Winfrey and Hollywood?
THE SETTING: Not taking anything away from "Drumline", or
"Stomp the Yard", The Debaters, albeit another time period, added a
refreshingly new layer of substance to films featuring HBCU campus life and
activities---academic rigor as well as Boogie Woogieing!
THE CHARACTERS: Just one generation completely removed from U.S. enslavement,
the students and staff of Wiley College allowed us to explore the
psychological complexities of our motivations and strivings, i.e. Do we draw that
"line in the sand" when confronted with unlawful hostilities, or do
we acquiesce and "live to fight another day?" It examined
complex relationships between father and son, male and female.
THE PLOT-One person's ability to stir passion and purpose in young people
thru its analysis---of the illogical system of human enslavement and its
successor, discrimination; and through the application of language in
the destruction of these twin evils.