April 2014


The Great Debaters

Mittwoch 16.04.2014 20:00 | Saal

Eintritt: frei

Veranstalter/-in: Werkstatt der Kulturen


The Great Debaters

2007 | 126 min. | USA | engl.

Director: Denzel Washington
Producer: Oprah Winfrey
Cast: Denzel Washington, Forest Whitaker, Nate Parker, Jurnee Smollett, Denzel Whitaker

Trailer (engl.) | Interview Oprah Winfrey | Interview Denzel Washington

Its steadfast humanity, its literacy, its passionate belief in education, its faith that history teaches invaluable lessons and its strong, emotionally grounded performances: There are enough things to admire about “The Great Debaters,” the heavily fictionalized true story of The Little Debate Team That Could.

The film is a based-on-a-true-story drama that actually manages to inspire: Denzel Washington plays Melvin Beaunorus Tolson (February 6, 1898 – August 29, 1966).

He was an American Modernist poet, educator, columnist, and politician. His work concentrated on the experience of African Americans and includes several long historical poems. His work was influenced by his study of the Harlem Renaissance, although he spent nearly all of his career in Texas and Oklahoma.

The film, produced by Oprah Winfrey, refers to his work with students at predominantly-black Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, and their debate with University of Southern California (USC).

Tolson works to build up the school debate team to the highest national standards. After a ruthlessly tough audition process he has his team of four: Samantha Booke (Jurnee Smollett) has just transferred to Wiley and dreams of becoming the state’s third-ever black female lawyer. Henry Lowe (Nate Parker) is a devilishly handsome man about town who struggles to balance his academic ideals with his hedonistic ways. And James Farmer, Jr. (Denzel Whitaker) is the 14-year-old son of another Wiley professor (Forest Whitaker), eager to prove his intellectual worth to his demanding father.

As the team successfully debates local schools, Tolson puts himself in increasing danger by acting as a covert labor organizer for local farmers. At the same time, James and his family, as well as the entire team later on, are periodically threatened by lynch mobs.

Both stories are potent reminders of the racist politics of the time, when a black man could be attacked for simply owning a suit and a car.