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The Great Debaters (Two-Disc Special Collector's Edition) (2007)

Denzel Washington , Forest Whitaker , Denzel Washington , Denzel Washington  |  PG-13 |  DVD
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (475 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Denzel Washington, Forest Whitaker, Damien Leake, Gregory Nicotero, Brian Smiar
  • Directors: Denzel Washington, Denzel Washington
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Collector's Edition, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Genius Products (TVN)
  • DVD Release Date: May 13, 2008
  • Run Time: 124 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (475 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00125WAXC
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #172,752 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Great Debaters (Two-Disc Special Collector's Edition)" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

Two-time Academy Award® winner Denzel Washington (American Gangster) directs and stars with Academy Award® winner Forest Whitaker (Last King of Scotland) in this important and deeply inspiring page from the not-so-distant past (Richard Roeper, At the Movies with Ebert and Roeper). Inspired by a true story, Washington shines as a brilliant but politically radical debate team coach who uses the power of words to transform a group of underdog African American college students into an historical powerhouse that took on the Harvard elite. DVD Special Features:

Disc One: Deleted Scenes
The Great Debaters: An Historical Perspective;That's What My Baby Likes Music Video. My Soul Is A Witness; Music Video. Theatrical Trailer
Sneak Peeks: Grace is Gone, Cassandra's Dream, I'm Not There, Hunting Party
Disc Two: The Great Debaters: A Heritage Of Music
Scoring The Great Debaters With James Newton Howard & Peter Golub
Learning The Art: Our Young Actors Go To Debate Camp
Forest Whitaker On Becoming James Farmer, Sr.
A New Generation Of Actors
The 1930's Wardrobe Of Sharen Davis
The Production Design Of David J. Bomba
The Poetry Of Melvin B. Tolson

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
77 of 80 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No Debate: This Film Is Great! January 22, 2008
`The Great Debaters' offers what great movie viewing is all about. Based on a true story, the film takes us to Wiley, an African-American Methodist college in Texas during the Depression in 1935. Inspiring, harrowing, and uplifting, the film gives proper transcendence especially during a time and place that didn't offer many breaks.

We are first introduced to Professor Polson (Denzel Washington), a tenacious idealist and poet. As professor at Wiley and debate coach, he hardly yields on any of his principles. Inspired by the man who is named for the heinous lynching, Polson tells his debate recruits that it was in Lynch's best interests to keep Black people, "Physically strong, but psychologically weak." It is with this explanation that we understand his zealous approach to his debate team, and why he makes their training so rigorous.

Entering the field are forty-five tryouts, of which, only four will be selected: two representatives and two alternates. Of the three who make it, we get to know Henry Lowe (Nate Parker) a charismatic and bright figurehead who is easily distracted by beautiful women and hard liquor. Joining him are Samantha Booke (Jurnee Smollett), the first young woman to join the debate team, and James Farmer, Jr. (Denzel Whitaker) forever young at age 14, but an ever resourceful scholar and son of a minister, James Farmer, Sr. (Forrest Whitaker). [No real life relations.] As he notices a romance start to blossom between his teammates, his resentment grows. As the one who researches many of the arguments Henry and Samantha provide on the podium, he is put on the sidelines both in terms of the limelight and the love light.

As you might guess, Wiley enjoys a certain amount of success, and the price of success is opposition.
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing drama January 21, 2008
It is 1935, and at a small Negro college in Texas, Professor Tolson (Denzel Washington) is coaching the debate team. Its members include a sweet, pretty girl, a ladies' man, and a 14-year old whiz-kid. The students blossom under Tolson's leadership, but his extra-curricular activities may be a problem; at night he is secretly unionizing the share croppers, and the sheriff doesn't like it one bit.

I never expected a movie about a debate team to be intense, scary, or exhilarating, but "The Great Debaters" is all that and more. There are two stories here - one is the debate team and the other is life under segregation; both stories are compelling. The acting is uniformly outstanding; Forrest Whitaker and Washington support some lesser-known, but extremely talented young stars. We get to know their characters and care about them as they overcome their various obstacles to become the top Negro college debate team in the country.

The injustices of segregation are vividly and heartbreakingly portrayed; it was quite a sobering look at the legalized cruelty of that time and place. The fact that this is a true story makes it all the more inspiring. Heartily recommended.
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
I first heard about THE GREAT DEBATERS when my friend and I were browsing through the antique shops of Arcadia, LA. The owner of one of those shops told me that several pieces of furniture out of her store had been purchased to use in the movie. That was fascinating. When you watch the movie, you'll have so much to see -- all the rich historical drama and good acting of a suspense-filled plot -- that you may not notice the authenticty of the set, including the furniture. If you buy the DVD, you will have enough interesting things to watch again and again.

It is sad to realize how things were in the 1930's in the part of the world where I live. This movie portrays the horrible way black people were treated. This story of Melvin B. Tolson, played by Denzel Washington, gives background information about the Civil Rights movement. Tolson's 1935 debate club at Wiley College, Marshall, Texas, stunned the nation. (I won't give the end of the plot away!)

Langston Hughes, the famous poet who authored "A Dream Deferred", visited Wiley College and said, "Melvin Tolson is the most famous Negro professor in the Southwest. Students all over that part of the world speak of him, revere him, remember him and love him." Tolson was active on many levels. In real life he was an English and speech professor, labor organizer, modern poet, novelist, debate coach, drama coach, and football coach! His methods were radical. At times while I watched the movie, I was anxious about some of his behavior as played by Denzel Washington. It is amazing that this man was not lynched.

Instead, the professor did just fine and eventually left Wiley College to teach in Oklahoma. Wiley College, located in east Texas between Dallas and Shreveport, is doing fine too.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Argument in Defense of this Film December 27, 2007
Denzel Washington's "The Great Debaters" has that classic feel-good attitude about it, the kind that can be both uplifting and inspiring when we feel that life is getting us down. I admit that sounds a little hokey. I also admit that the story is somewhat predictable, especially as it nears the end. But the strengths of this film far outweigh the weaknesses--this is a pleasant and enjoyable story, one in which overcoming adversity is not only the overall theme, but also the literal driving force of the plot. I use the word "plot" because I have no way of knowing how accurately it interprets real life; the year 1935 saw the debate team from Marshall, Texas' all black Wiley College compete with several major, mostly white universities. Leading Wiley's team was Melvin B. Tolson, an African American English professor who stirred up controversy not only because of his race, but also because of his radical political beliefs.

In the film, Denzel Washington portrays Tolson as a motivating but firm man of principle, believing that a debate can only be won through a strict regiment of reason and logic. The beginning of the semester sees the formation of a new debate team, and out of the forty-five students who try out, only four are chosen. One is Henry Lowe (Nate Parker), a young man so disillusioned by life that he drowns his sorrows in reckless behavior: he drinks; he womanizes; he gets into fights with dangerous people. He's also Tolson's mental and emotional equal--both are strong-willed and stubborn, and both are willing to match wits with each other. The second student is Samantha Booke (Jurnee Smollett), the first woman to ever be on Wiley's debate team.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful to watch
This was a story I had never heard and the movie was an uplifting journey. Great acting and the story is riveting. Read more
Published 3 hours ago by Sally
5.0 out of 5 stars Great one you might have overlooked
Love to see true stories presented in a non-documentary way! Very well acted.
Published 13 hours ago by Supershopper
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 16 hours ago by Kevin
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 19 hours ago by Huseyin Kalafat
2.0 out of 5 stars The true story of Wiley College's triumph is inspiration enough ...
The true story of Wiley College's triumph is inspiration enough for a film. Unfortunately the producers here felt the need to twist the truth in order to serve us another Hollywood... Read more
Published 1 day ago by avid reader from Tucson
5.0 out of 5 stars A different side to Denzel
I love Denzel Washington's acting! and I also love debates. This movie was about finding commonality in order to break through racial barriers.
Published 1 day ago by janice miller
5.0 out of 5 stars Must See!
Fantastic film. I'm a sucker for historical films, especially those based in truth. Washington delivers yet another fantastic performance!
Published 1 day ago by Deadsolidperfect1992
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 1 day ago by Wojtek Korpal
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
A touch of history we all should know
Published 1 day ago by James N Watson
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Good movie!!
Published 1 day ago by Faye B
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