Last night I watched an absolutely thought provoking movie starring Denzel Washington. The movie tells the story of a group of black students studying in Wiley College who are egged on by their teacher to fight back racism through debating and claim what is rightfully theirs, human dignity. The narrative also dwells on the lives of the black community in Texas (and the intolerance that whites show to blacks, racism and conflict could have been anywhere in the South during the 1930s when racism was still rampant, The Klan was the leitmotif of white America in the south and lynching a common occurrence).
Based on a true life story the Great Debaters is directed by Denzel Washington and he stars in the lead role. Not surprisingly Oprah’s Harpo Production produced the movie. While Denzel gives a power-packed performance (as is usual) it is Forest Whitaker and Denzel Whitaker as James Farmer Sr and James Farmer Jr who draw you in. While Dead Poets Society is a coming-of-age movie and urges you to live life, The Great Debaters provokes you to look beyond your immediate self and fight for humanity.
“An unjust law is no law at at all”. This line is a refrain through the movie.
And does it hold good now or what as we hurtle forward in Intolerance: between races, religions, ethnic groups, rich and poor.
We precariously live in an Age of Intolerance, where students get suspended for cheering a sporting team from an ‘enemy’ country and even booked under sedition; where (girl) students are arrested in the middle of the night for expressing their opinion on social media; where journalists come under the scanner for being unbiased and objective; where stones are thrown and lives in peril for going against the body politic; where women are maimed and brutalised for daring to be ‘modern’; where publishers withdraw books because an unheard-of group complains it hurts religious sentiments; where going against populist agendas and ‘popular’ politicians can have dire consequences; where oppression is key to enforcing global capitalist policies and people are easy pawns to do with as governments deem fit.
Instead of freedom and economic prosperity what the 21st century will witness are more Arab Springs as citizens fight to throw off self-serving governments and oppressive forces.
Graphic Courtesy: map report
Good news: The educated class and our youth are not apathetic after all. We care.