Synopsis

 

What do Hillary Clinton, Sonia Sotomayor, Elizabeth Warren and Oprah Winfrey have in common? They each were on their high school debate teams. But, over the past few years something insidious has snuck into politics, and it has everything to do with the skills these women worked so hard to develop as teenagers.

High school debate is still perceived as a male dominated activity. There are more male than female debaters, there are many more male debaters who get into the final rounds, and a disproportionat amount who win tournaments. The Debate film, about the Massachuesetts Newton South High School Debate Team, explores both blatant and nuanced cultural and behavioral factors that contribute to this. Focusing on the experience of girl debaters of "Newton South", the film offers an intimate window into these girls' first foray into real world politics. As Michael Norton says in The Necessity of Feminism in Speech and Debate: “Female debaters disproportionately receive comments on their clothing, mannerisms, and even their appearance during a debate, while the commentary for male debaters seldom touches these issues.”

 

 

The Directors

Lucia Small

Lucia Small

Ilisa ("Lisa") Barbash

Ilisa ("Lisa") Barbash

Barbash and Small first met at the Flaherty Seminar in 2008 when Lisa was completing post-production on SWEETGRASS (co-created with Lucien Castaing Taylor) and Lucia was distributing THE AXE IN THE ATTIC (co-created with Ed Pincus). Despite their different approaches to filmmaking, Small and Barbash connected artistically and began supporting each others' endeavors until 2015 when they teamed up for The Debate Film.  Since the project's inception, Anna Graham has been an integral part of the team as sound recordist and associate editor.

 
Anna Graham
 

Anna Graham - Sound Recordist, Associate Editor