Denzel Pulls Double-Duty in Issues-Oriented Great Debaters
- Saturday, December 22, 2007
"Things are changing. And we look at the world in terms of our 50 or 60 or 80 years that we're here," Washington said. "When you look back at 400 or 300 years of slavery, and five years or 10 years of legislation, everything's not just going to be perfect necessarily, in my generation or your generation.
"But we do have to understand our place in history, and that we have to keep fighting and keep moving forward. There has been a lot of progress,” Washington continues. “But in the film, I always show young people, and how it affected kids because racism is taught. Hatred is taught. Ignorance is taught. You're not born ignorant; it takes education, to have narrow opinions. It comes from somewhere. So until we stop passing it on, from generation to generation, it's not going to change completely. But it is changing."
Take Three: A Lesson in Humility
Although he’s got two Oscars to his credit, one for Best Supporting Actor in 1989’s Glory and one for Best Actor in 2001’s Training Day, Washington understands the importance of not getting too prideful and believing your own hype, which isn’t always easy to do in the Hollywood limelight.
"I've been around a long time. What it's taught me to do is not get too high and not get too low," Washington said. "What people will say, what people will give you for it, whether they will and whether they won't ... that's all really gravy.”
And while it’s been prognosticated that Washington will be nominated yet again for an Oscar for American Gangster and The Great Debaters, Washington remains modest about his chances. "For me, what success is for The Great Debaters is getting every young person in America to see it,” he shares. “If Oscars help that happen, whatever helps that happen, I'm all for it."
Take Four: Sparking a New Love for the Art of Debate
Washington also hopes his new movie helps revive the art of competitive discussion in schools in a day where television and computer games have largely killed the once revered competition.
In fact, he hopes the film encourages today’s teachers and professors to create debating classes. "We're not developing that muscle that imagines as we used to,” Washington says. “We went from spoken word to radio to television to film to computer.
"My kids write like chicken scratch because they don't have to write anymore. Debate is not the sport that it was. ... It seemed to make a turn around post World War II with the advent of television, it just wasn't as popular anymore. I don't know that it ever will be like it was, but I think the spoken word still is popular."
Washington believes that hip-hop and rap music is today’s modern debating. "It's no coincidence that one of the dominant themes contributing to our culture now is hip-hop or rap, which is getting right back to poetry whether you like what they're saying sometimes or not,” Washington says. “There's good poetry out there and bad poetry."
Point taken, and one on which many parents would probably even agree.
Starring Denzel Washington, Forest Whitaker, Denzel Whitaker, Jurnee Smollett and Nate Parker, The Great Debaters is rated PG-13 (for depictions of strong thematic material including violence and disturbing images, language and brief sexuality) and releases in theaters nationwide on Christmas Day 2007.
For more information, check out www.thegreatdebatersmovie.com.
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