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STARRING: Denzel Washington, Forest Whitaker, Nate Parker, Denzel Whitaker, Jurnee Smollett, Jermaine Williams, Gina Ravera

RUNTIME: 123 minutes


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 character.
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.


M. Florence Berry



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Public domain photo of Denzel Washington