Wednesday, December 26, 2007

"The Great Debaters"

"The Great Debaters," is easily the most inspiring, empowering movie of the year. I nearly floated out of the theater. I actually encouraged people in the ticket line not to miss it.

"The Great Debaters," directed by Denzel Washington and produced by Oprah, is Hollywood all the way. It is an empowering underdog story inspired by the true story of how the debating team from the small African American institution of Wiley College won the 1935 National Debating Championship. Outstanding performances by Denzel Washington and Forest Whitaker make the picture.

The film, set in Texas during the Great Depression, starts out with hectic bits of activity to establish the setting, but it doesn't seem to match the tone of the rest of the picture. In fact, it moved so fast before I had a chance to catch my bearings, that I didn't catch much of it at all.

But soon enough we're in the classroom studying revolutionary ideas from the writers of the Harlem Renaissance with Professor Tolson. Denzel's passionate delivery is reminiscent of Robin William's in "Dead Poets Society. I suspect that Professor Tolson was much more interesting, controversial, and radical than the man presented here. However, it is so moving to hear these important ideas spoken by a African American teacher to African American students at a time when there was still lynching in their part of the country.

The film doesn't back down from the racism of the time. In fact, its an ongoing theme. The film asks if the power of words can really make any difference in the face of violent acts of racism.

The script adheres so tightly to formula that I knew that something bad had to follow the debating team's success. Despite being aware of this writing device, I was so involved in the story that I was actually afraid of what would happen to the characters next.

Through his example, Professor Tolson inspires his students to speak up for what is right despite how it might conflict with their personal lives or the dangerous world around them. Debate all you want about it, but don't miss this important story.

Please, send a message to Hollywood that you want more empowering films like, "The Great Debaters," by attending it on opening weekend and encouraging your friends to do the same.

Movie Blessings,
Jana Segal

1 comment:

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