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The Great Debaters | 2007 | PG-13 | - 4.5.4

Drama based on the true story, chronicling how Texas' Wiley College debate team broke the racial barrier in college debating in the 1930s. Denzel Washington directs and stars as the debate team coach, who manages to turn students from the small African American college into an elite debate team. Also with Nate Parker, Jurnee Smollett, Denzel Whitaker, Forest Whitaker and Jermaine Williams. [2:03]

SEX/NUDITY 4 - A young man and a young woman kiss, and she caresses his face; they are in bed under covers, we see him lying on top of her and it is implied that they have sex when they wake up together in the morning (the young man's bare chest and back are seen when he gets out of bed wearing boxer shorts and the young woman's bare shoulders are also seen).
 A young man and a young woman kiss, she wraps her leg around his waist and they kiss, and she gets back into a car and he stumbles into a house.
 A young man caresses a young woman's clothed thigh and leans in to kiss her (they are interrupted by her husband). A young man kisses a woman on the neck. A young man imagines dancing with a young woman and that she kisses him.
 Men and women dance together in a bar, and one man is shown squeezing the clothed buttock of his dance partner. A young man and a young woman dance together at a party. Men and women dance in a bar scene.
 Women wear low-cut dresses and tops that reveal cleavage.
 A young man sees the clothing of a young woman on the floor of a cabin where another young man lives, and understands that they spent the night together.
 Two young men flirt with a young woman. A young man looks at a young woman adoringly.


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VIOLENCE/GORE 5 - Several African-Americans in a car drive along a dark road where they see many white people standing around an African-American man who has been hung from a tree and burned (we see the hanging body with burned and smoldering skin); the crowd sees the people in the car and begins chasing them down the road, and the car gets away.
 Many men meet in a barn and discuss unionizing, a car drives through the barn doors and the men are chased and struck by men with sticks and guns; a fire is started, a horse rears and a young man hiding in the barn is afraid and tries to get away, but he is grabbed by a man who takes him to safety.
 A man drives a car on a road, and strikes a hog that walks into the road (we see the hog lying dead on the road with blood in its mouth); the owners of the hog threatens the driver of the car and holds a gun on him, the driver gives the man money and they lift the hog into the back of a truck (no one is injured).
 A young woman's husband finds a young man trying to kiss her, the husband throws the young man outside and threatens him with a knife, the young man kicks and punches the man several times, takes his knife away from him and prepares to stab him (another man holds him back and the fight breaks up).
 A young man is confronted by his father who yells at him and strikes him across the face. A young woman strikes a young man across the face. A man's face is bloody and bruised after an apparent beating (we do not see the beating).
 Many police officers force their way into a college and arrest a man, they put him in handcuffs and shove him around. Two young men scuffle and wrestle during an argument.
 A young man talks about African-Americans having their fingers, toes and noses cut off during hangings and that some were skinned alive. A man describes abuses suffered by slaves including being "tarred and feathered" and "drawn and quartered." Many people protest outside a sheriff's office for a man to be released. Three people argue bitterly. We hear that African-Americans were denied birth certificates. A reference is made to "black being equated with failure." A reference is made to debating being "a blood sport."


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LANGUAGE 4 - 3 scatological terms, 9 mild obscenities, 34 derogatory reference to African-Americans, 1 derogatory reference to Caucasians, 5 religious exclamations.


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SUBSTANCE USE - A young man drinks alcohol from a flask and hands it to a young woman who also drinks from it, a young man drinks alcohol from a flask and shares with another young man, a young man drinks alcohol, people drink beer in a bar scene, and a young man appears o be drunk (we do not see him drinking). A woman is shown smoking and a man smokes a pipe in a few scenes.


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DISCUSSION TOPICS - Racism, racial hatred, debating, fear, oppression, teamwork, childhood, hate, revolution, communism, socialism, segregation, civil disobedience, equality, freedom, idealism, morality, justice, betrayal, radicalism, unionizing, child labor regulations, welfare, poverty, public relief, glory, government assistance, doubt, truth, vigilantism, brutality.

MESSAGE - Never quit. Discrimination and racism are awful institutions.

CAVEATS

Be aware that while we do our best to avoid spoilers it is impossible to disguise all details and some may reveal crucial plot elements.

We've gone through several editorial changes since we started covering films in 1992 and older reviews are not as complete & accurate as recent ones; we plan to revisit and correct older reviews as resources and time permits.

Our ratings and reviews are based on the theatrically-released versions of films; on video there are often Unrated, Special, Director's Cut or Extended versions, (usually accurately labelled but sometimes mislabeled) released that contain additional content, which we did not review.


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