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Reuters via Yahoo:  Docu a compelling portrait of high school debaters

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - With its esoteric rules and ultra-ambitious participants, competitive high school debate would seem, at first glance, a dry and potentially off-putting subject for a documentary.

But Greg Whiteley, whose rock 'n' roll portrait "New York Doll" remains one of the more memorable and poignant nonfiction films of recent years, delivers surprises at every turn in the engaging and provocative "Resolved."

The film, which received the audience award for best docu feature at the Los Angeles Film Festival, plunges the viewer into a world that is, to be sure, impenetrable to anyone who's not versed in the lingo known as the spread (short for "speed reading"). Over the past four decades, high school debate has morphed into a sort of performance art in which debaters sound like gasping auctioneers spewing forth a 400-word-per-minute bombardment of factoids.

In its early sequences, Whiteley's film appears to be a fascinating but dispiriting look at the way the system values information processing (or microprocessing) over eloquent, finely tuned arguments designed to persuade. But by its final scenes, "Resolved" has delivered a very unexpected and well-earned jolt of hope.

The first surprise is that not all debaters are pedigreed preppies. The film follows the 2005 and 2006 competitive circuit, focusing on two public school teams. In Texas, nonconformist Sam Iola, who doesn't see the point of doing homework, leads the highly ranked Highland Park team, which includes earnest up-and-comer Matt Andrews. At Southern California's Long Beach Jordan, where only 12 percent to 18 percent of graduates go on to a four-year college, a young teacher named David Wiltz has reinstituted a debate program and come some way toward overcoming the nerd stigma. Against all odds, the school's Louis Blackwell and Richard Funches, the only African American team on the circuit, nab the state championship and head for the national Tournament of Champions.

I'm stunned to hear that debate has changed so much -- I had no idea!      The mention of my old high school's statistics, however, is not a surprise.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jul 14th, 2007 at 01:34:58 AM EST
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