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The Great Debaters: Movie Review, Give Up That Oscar!

By Monica Medina


I know it’s been a whole week (ok, more like a week and a half) since I’ve updated this page. I’ve been under intense writing deadlines. So, I attended the advance screening of The Great Debaters. This film is off the meter. This is a must see film. No, I’m not just saying this because Denzel Washington is starring in the movie. Those who know me know that I am one of the toughest film critics out there. No one gets the pass from me so to speak.

The Great Debaters was thoroughly entertaining and intriguing from beginning to end. It’s one of those films that you do not want to make a popcorn dash or take a bathroom break because it leaves you at the edge of your seat and every scene is a powerful scene. The film is also hilarious.

The film, based on a true story, centers around the first African American debate team started by Professor Mel Tolson, who also was arrested in the film for his involvement in organizing Black and White farmers in “Jim Crow” South. (Kids if you don’t know what “Jim Crow” was please start googling or hit the library). Trust me during the Jim Crow South, a Black man organizing Black and White farmers was MAJOR.

What also makes the film spectacular is the love, family and relationship drama. The classic scene being “the smack felt around the world” delivered by Jurnee Smollet’s character Samantha. Samantha is in love with the debate team captain, Henry Lowe, who conveniently starts cheating and flaunting it-despite just having a passionate love making session in the afternoon with Samantha a few days earlier. (Henry Lowe also hits the bottle often. Drinking is his way of dealing with conflicts and the racist South). The hurt and betrayal by her lover and debate team captain causes Samantha to quit the team. The complex relationship between Forest Whitaker’s character, James Farmer Sr., his son played by Denzel Whitaker and Mr. Tolson is also one that keeps moviegoers intrigued. Actress Kimberly Elise plays Forest Whitakers wife .

The Great Debaters is educational on all levels with much intrigue, drama, scandal and comedy that keep moviegoers thrilled on all levels. By the way, the acting is superb in the film. If Hollywood would give an Oscar to a film based on Mel Tolson’s life, that would be historic on all levels. This film is worthy of the Oscar nod for the great script, direction and superior performances by this talented cast. It is sometimes hard to make historical films entertaining for all types of moviegoers. The Great Debaters has the right formula which surpasses all moviegoer’s expectations. Support “The Great Debaters and do not bootleg or buy a bootleg copy.
To the Academy: Give up that Oscar! See The Great Debaters film trailer below.

NOTE: Don’t forget to head over to to check out our interviews with Maxine Ballard, sister of Florence Ballard, the original members of the Supremes (the film Dreamgirls was based on her life), Barbara Becnel, executor of estate for Stanley “Tookie” Williams and hip hop legend KRS-1.


December 19, 2007 Posted by | Black Film, monica medina, The Great Debaters | , , , , , | Leave a comment