“The Great Debaters” Review by Tarek Fayoumi


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Denzel Washington is not only a brilliant actor, but is also an auteur director of a film that gears on the challenges of a debate team in harsh times. “The Great Debaters” is an extraordinary drama that left me in tears. Washington is at his best. It also stars Nate Parker (as Henry Lowe), Jurnee Smollet-Bell (as Samantha Booke), Denzel whitaker (as James Farmer Jr.), and Forest Whitaker (as Dr. James Farmer Sr.). “The Great Debaters” is such a triumphant adaptation, and is one that will be talked about for years.

“The Great Debaters” follows the true story of Melvin B. Tolson (Washington): a professor that taught at Wiley College Texas. The year is 1935, and he captivates the school to form a debate team. The three teammates are Henry Lowe, Samantha Booke, and James Farmer Jr.

The debate team is an experience that the students look forward to, but are put to the test to see if they can compete with all of the issues that are around them. The issues include a crucible by Jim Crow, Sexism, lynch mobs, affairs, jealousy, and the biggest portion of them all…the big debate being played around on a national radio audience.

James father is proud of James, but sees that his son is putting himself in danger. James saw a lynching happening, and almost got himself killed. Also with the segregation problems, his father sees that they may be an undefeated team, but judges could judge against them when they debate a white college. This makes James have most of his subjects be on how awful life is for how different races are treated. The response from the audience is them being surprised.

I was astonished by “The Great Debaters.” At one point in my life I remember wanting to try out for a debate team. I never did though. The intensity of the subjects in “The Great Debaters” makes viewers realize that debate is not a joking matter. “The Great Debaters” is heavy with preparation. When I saw this film, I realized that it would be too much pressure for me to do a debate team. “The Great Debaters” really defines the courage it takes for young students to debate serious topics.

Washington also promotes this film positively. He even donated a million dollars to Wiley College the week before the film’s release. For Harvard University (the white college that Wiley has debated), this film was the first film to be screened at Harvard and they have not screened a movie since 1979.

“The Great Debater” is amazing. Many will not forget the experience.

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