The 2007 drama film, 'The Great Debaters' was directed and co-produced by, two time academy award winner, Denzel Washington and produced by Harpo Productions. Based on a true story against the backdrop of the 1930's, the movie highlights the sheer injustice and discrimination faced by the African Americans. The film narrates the story of a mercurial coach who went on a mission to build a high standard debating team in his institution, Black Willey College in Texas. The character of the inspirational coach is played by the director Denzel Washington and the screenplay of the film is by Robert eisele. The film co-starred Forest Whitaker, Kimberly elise, Nate Parker, Denzel Whitaker, Gina Ravera, Jermaine Williams and Jurnee Smollett. The film portrays the coach Mel Tolson, who helps his debating team fight all odds and finish victorious, ready to face any debate team in the United States. Read on to know more about 'The Great Debaters'.
Great Debaters Movie
The film, 'The Great Debaters' tells us the story of Mel Tolson who was a professor at Black Wiley College, a college only for African Americans in Marshall, Texas. The film is based on a true event that occurred during 1930's when the African Americans faced indignity, discrimination and racial violence. In the story, the rigid and intellectual professor, Mel Tolson, of Black Wiley College had a task at hand - building an excellent, unbeatable debate team of the highest possible standards. Through a strict audition process, he got his desired team of four who were entirely different in character from each other. Though his initial goal was to defeat all the other Afro-American colleges, later, he set an even higher goal of defeating the national champions, at Harvard. The story involves Harvard taking a crucial decision on whether or not they should face the Black Wiley debating team.
The four talents of Mel Tolson's team were, Samantha Booke, the only woman in the team; Henry Lowe, an arrogant young man with abundant knowledge about almost everything; James Farmer Jr., son to a professor; and Hamilton Burgess, a conservative young man. The movie also throws light on the interactions between these characters and the struggles that their families underwent even as the debating team emerged successful from all its debates. We also see instances of the team being threatened and attacked by people. These were grim reminders of the 1930's scenario, where being of white skin was the only superior status in society.
In a time when education was not seen as a prerogative of Afro-Americans, Tolson taught his team to use words as weapons and enabled them thus, to win competitive battles. This training was used by the team members as a tool for enlightenment. A controversial figure, Tolson is portrayed as a character who constantly struggled against injustices that the Afro-Americans faced then; he even fought for various other causes.
Motivated by a true story of the 1930's, 'The Great Debaters' is the story of a coach who, converts his team to debating stalwarts using his unconventional teaching methods and radical approach. In the actual incident, the debate was against the then champions, The University of California Debate team. The film portrays the characters in such a way that the audience can't resist forging an emotional bond with them. There are instances in the film when we admire the team and the coach for the courage they display even in the midst of adversities. Though there were not any obvious villains in the film, it was often the poisonous and hostile social atmosphere that played the negative role.
'The Great Debaters' is an inspirational movie which teaches audiences about the relationship of a temperamental coach and his students. Not only does the coach guide the team to success, but also plays an inherent role in getting the students to realize their strengths and play hard against rivals. The coach, being the main protagonist of the film, teaches others through his character, that teachers are not only responsible for their students' academics but, they also have a vital developmental role to play in their lives. The movie is a perfect example of how teachers can be much more than just the regular 'tutor' and can go out of the way to make their students successful.