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The Great Debaters Details


Drawing inspiration from the true story of a temperamental debate coach who molded the students of a small East Texas college into a formidable team that gave even Harvard's elite squad a run for their money, Denzel Washington's The Great Debaters features the director himself as the ambitious educator, and Forest Whitaker as the resentful father of a student whose loyalties now lie almost exclusively with his coach. Melvin B. Tolson (Washington) is the kind of educator who truly recognizes the remarkable power of knowledge. An outspoken Wiley College professor who boldly challenged the discriminatory Jim Crow laws of the 1930s, Tolson's recognizes that his young debate students possess the spark of a new generation. Convinced that they could invoke great change if given the confidence and tools needed to do so, the tireless educator implores his students to take responsibility for the future while furtively attempting to protect them from his clandestine role as an organizer for the Southern Tenant Farmers Union. Chief among Tolson's promising young students is a 14-year-old prodigy named James Farmer, Jr. (Denzel Whitaker). Farmer's father, James Sr. (Forest Whitaker), is a renowned scholar and an important presence in the emerging student's life. Yet despite his formidable reputation, James Sr. has not yet learned how to truly harness the power of knowledge through action and assertion. James Jr. has seen the raving effects of racism all around him, and longs to live in a future where no one must be in fear simply because of the color of their skin. Other talented debaters on Tolson's team include fiercely independent student Henry Lowe (Nate Parker), and Samantha Brooke (Jurnee Smollett) -- the first ever female ever to join the Wiley College debate team. While most educators may not have recognized the remarkable potential of assembling such a disparate team, Tolson's unique vision truly set him apart from the pack as the team begins to experience a series of consecutive victories on their road to challenging Harvard at the National Championships. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

  • Release date:December 25, 2007


Denzel Washington
as Melvin B. Tolson
Forest Whitaker
as James Farmer Sr.
Nate Parker
as Henry Lowe
Jurnee Smollett
as Samantha Booke
Denzel Whitaker
as James Farmer Jr.
Jermaine Williams
as Hamilton Burgess
Gina Ravera
as Ruth Tolson
John Heard
as Sheriff Dozier
Kimberly Elise
as Pearl Farmer
Devyn Tyler
as Helen Farmer
Ritchie Montgomery
as Deputy
Jackson Walker
as Pig Owner
Tim Parati
as Pig Farmer
Justice Leak
as Harland Osbourne
Glen Powell Jr.
as Harvard Debater #1
Brian Smiar
as Harvard Dean
Damien Leake
as Wilson
Gordon Daniels
as Paul Quinn Debate Judge
Donny Boaz
as Oklahoma City College Debater #1
Bonnie Johnson
as Dr. Jennings
Charissa Allen
as Benita
Gary Mathis
as Enormous Man
Fahnlohnee R. Harris
as Clementine
Harold Evans
as William Taylor
J.D. Evermore
as Captain Wainwright
Sharon Jones
as Lila
Kelvin Payton
as Joseph
Southey Blanton
as White Labor Organizer
Michael Mattison
as White Sharecropper #1
Frank Ridley
as Security Guard
Jeremiah Kissel
as Radio Announcer at Harvard Debate
Jack Radosta
as White Man at Lynching
Marcus Brown
as Howard Debater #1
Rhiannon Giddens
as Juke Joint Musician #4
Ahmad Powell
as Fisk Professor
Gregory Nicotero
as Puppeteer
Gino Crognale
as Puppeteer
Michael Deak
as Puppeteer
Alex Diaz
as Puppeteer


Denzel Washington
Joe Roth
Oprah Winfrey
Todd Black
Kate Forte
Jeffrey Porro
Screen Story
Robert Eisele
Screen Story
Robert Eisele
Philippe Rousselot
G. Marq Roswell
Musical Direction/Supervision
James Newton Howard
Composer (Music Score)
Peter Golub
Composer (Music Score)
Hughes Winborne
John Breinholt
David J. Bomba
Production Designer
John R. Jenson
Art Director
Molly Allen
Bob Weinstein
Executive Producer
Harvey Weinstein
Executive Producer
Frank Rose
Costume Designer
Toby Michael Bronson
Costume Designer
Susan Thomas
Costume Designer
Ren Heeralal
Costume Designer
Patrick Cassidy
Set Decorator
Andrée Fortier
Costume Designer
Lauren Wade
Costume Designer
Sharen Davis
Costume Designer
Meriwether Nichols
Costume Designer
Liz Staub
Costume Designer
Krystle Lamoreaux
Costume Designer
Willie D. Burton
Sound/Sound Designer
Dorian Cheah
Sound/Sound Designer
Jono Oliver
First Assistant Director
Pamela Rittelmeyer
Camera Operator
Xiomara Comrie
Camera Operator
Guss Williams
Eric Norris
Gregg Brazzel
Bobby Beckles
Russell Towery
Denise Chamian
Denise Pugh-Ruiz
Assistant Makeup
Donny Fowler
Gregg Hale
Second Assistant Director
Gregory Nicotero
Makeup Special Effects
Brent Dahlin
Bret Carroll
Bruce Schluter
Title Design
Bryan Booth
Carl Fullerton
Department Head Hair
Alajahwon Ridgeway
Production Assistant
Carmine Rubino
Foley Mixer
Charles Lacy
Musical Performer
Cid Swank
Unit Publicist
Dan Hines
Dave Glavin
David Heffler
Production Assistant
Dean Allison
Construction Foreman
Ed Burcham
Set Dresser
Erin Oakley
ADR Editor
Eryne Prine
Assistant Sound Editor
Eugene Purcell
Alison Cannon
Production Accountant
Gary Kelso
Gary Tolbert
Aerial Photography
Gavin Greenaway
Geraud Brisson
Additional Editing
Giovanni Bommarito
Greg Orloff
Re-Recording Mixer
Pacific Title
Title Design
Todd Kasow
Music Editor
Tommy Samona
Trae Carter
Production Assistant
Valerie Gladstone
Assistant Hair
Beverly Reeves
Virle Reid
Assistant Properties
Wende Martin
Rick Kline
Re-Recording Mixer
Brian McNulty
Post Production Supervisor
Brian McNulty
Visual Effects Producer
Rob Simons
Assistant Art Director
Dana Hart
Costumes Supervisor
Rob Brown
Producer's Assistant
Christine Coggins
Producer's Assistant
Shannon Thompson
Producer's Assistant
Ryan Misselhorn
Scott Childers
Construction Foreman
Barbara Mcdermott
Assistant Music Editor
Phillip Joffrion
Set Dresser
Richard Benavidez
Richard Lengle
Riko Schatke
Best Boy Grip
Rita Pearson
Personal Assistant
Belinda Anderson
Key Hairstylist
Shellie Gillespie
Art Department Coordinator
Simone Perusse
Stephanetta Bingley
Personal Assistant
Stephen Thorp
Steve Driggers
Steven Huerstel
Cable Person
Tammy Peck
Animal Trainer/Wrangler
Tateum Kohut
Re-Recording Mixer
Ted Moser
Transportation Coordinator
Tim Tuchrello
Sound Effects Editor
Patrick Pfupajena
Production Assistant
Larry Misselhorn
Latoya Green
Annette Ansley
Matiki Anoff
Key Make-up
Antonio Caetano Santos
Production Assistant
Adrian Cannon
Maya Beiser
Musical Performer
Meredith Wieck
Production Assistant
Michael Dressel
Foley Editor
Mindy Jones
Production Accountant
Monte Emery
Nannette Palmer
Set Medic/First Aid
Natalia Anderson
Production Secretary
Natalie Ballesteros
Casting Assistant
Nicki Johnson
Assistant Production Coordinator
Arthur Welch
Craft Service/Catering
Jorge Loredo
Jorge Vasquez
Juan Echanarria
Julian Sylvester
Animal Trainer/Wrangler
Angela Demo
Casting Associate
Justin Nance
Transportation Captain
Kami Asgar
Supervising Sound Editor
Karen Golden
Script Supervisor
Lee Wimer
Color Timing
Linda Lazar
Anne Scott
First Assistant Accountant
Anita Cannella
Foley Artist
Kim Drummond
ADR Supervisor
Kim Magruder
Jenna Block
Producer's Assistant
Jodie Stern
Assistant Costume Designer
Joe Hancock
John Marquis
Sound Effects Editor
John Parricelli
Musical Performer
Andria Warren
Production Assistant
Jon Wakeham
Sound Effects Editor
Jacob Riehle
First Assistant Sound Editor
James Babineaux
Best Boy Electric
Jamie Horwitz
Second Assistant Accountant
Janice Hudson
Hair Styles
Jason Halley
Production Assistant
Jeff Valeri
Production Coordinator
Helen Britten
Assistant Set Decorator
Herwig Maurer
Sound Effects Editor
Hodge Grigsby
Production Assistant
Howard Berger
Makeup Special Effects
Howard London
ADR Mixer