The Great Debaters

January 2007126 minutes
Independent
362

From two-time Academy Award winner Denzel Washington and an ensemble cast lead by Washington that includes Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker, comes THE GREAT DEBATERS. Inspired by a true story, THE GREAT DEBATERS chronicles the journey of Professor Melvin Tolson (Denzel Washington), a brilliant but volatile debate team coach who uses the power of words to shape a group of underdog students from a small African American college in the deep south into a historically elite debate team. A controversial figure, Professor Tolson challenged the social mores of the time and was under constant fire for his unconventional and ferocious teaching methods as well as his radical political views. In their pursuit for excellence, Tolson's debate team receives a groundbreaking invitation to debate Harvard University's championship team. The film is directed by Denzel Washington and stars Washington, Forest Whitaker, Jurnee Smollett, Nate Parker, Denzel Whitaker, and Kimberly Elise. THE GREAT DEBATERS was written by Robert Eisele and produced by Todd Black, Kate Forte, Oprah Winfrey and Joe Roth. MPAA Rating: PG-13 © 2007 The Weinstein Company, LLC
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4.7
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Additional Information

Rotten Tomatoes® Score
Audio Language
English (Stereo, 5.1)
Subtitles
English
Info Cards
Enabled
Eligible for Family Library
Eligible if purchased with select payment methods. Rentals are not eligible. Learn More
Run time
126 minutes
Rating
PG-13
Drama
Writer-director Spike Lee's epic portrayal of the life and times of the slain civil rights leader Malcolm X begins with the cross-cut imagery of the police beating of black motorist Rodney King juxtaposed with an American flag burning into the shape of the letter X. When the film's narrative begins moments later, it jumps back to World War II-era Boston, where Malcolm Little (Denzel Washington) is making his living as a hustler. The son of a Baptist preacher who was murdered by the Ku Klux Klan, Little was raised by foster parents after his mother was deemed clinically insane; as an adult, he turned to a life of crime, which leads to his imprisonment on burglary charges. In jail, Little receives epiphany in the form of an introduction to Islam; he is especially taken with the lessons of Elijah Mohammed, who comes to him in a vision. Adopting the name 'Malcolm X' as a rejection of the 'Little' surname (given his family by white slave owners), he meets the real Elijah Mohammed (Al Freeman, Jr.) upon exiting prison, and begins work as a spokesman for the Nation of Islam. Marriage to a Muslim nurse named Betty Shabazz (Angela Bassett) follows, after which X spearheads a well-attended march on a Harlem hospital housing a Muslim recovering from an episode of police brutality. The march's success helps elevate X to the position of Islam's national spokesperson. There is dissension in the ranks, however, and soon X is targeted for assassination by other Nation leaders; even Elijah Mohammed fears Malcolm's growing influence. After getting wind of the murder plot, X leaves the Nation of Islam, embarking on a pilgrimage to Mecca that proves revelatory; renouncing his separatist beliefs, his oratories begin embracing all races and cultures. During a 1965 speech, Malcolm X is shot and killed, reportedly by Nation of Islam members.
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