Picture from The Great Debaters
Overall B+

The Great Debaters is based on a true story of Mel Tolson (Denzel Washington), a Texas professor who encourages his African-American students to believe they can take on the world. In 1935, he puts together and coaches a debate team, hoping they can compete against Harvard University in an upcoming championship.

Violence C-
Sexual Content C
Profanity B
Substance Use C

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for depiction of strong thematic material including violence and disturbing images, and for language and brief sexuality.

Talk to your kids about…

The Great Debaters

The issue of learning how to fight using non-violent methods is one of the themes raised in this film. How did debating help these students to value themselves?

This movie is based on a true story, but features a mix of historical and fictional characters (research indicates there was no woman on the initial 1935 team). What are the “tradeoffs” between historical accuracy and dramatic license? Do you think fictionalizing historical events might risk creating “urban legends” or altering people’s perceptions of historical fact? Would sticking to just the facts make for a boring movie?

For more information on the James Farmer and the Wiley College debate team, check these links from AfricanAmericans.com and The United Methodist Church.

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