Denzel Washington has paid tribute to the home of the debate team portrayed in his new movie THE GREAT DEBATERS by screening the film at a local theatre. Washington directs and stars in the Golden Globe-nominated film, which was inspired by the life of poet and educator Melvin Tolson, who coached Wiley College's elite all-black debate team from the small town of Marshall, Texas, in the 1930s. And the 53-year-old was keen to honour the town and the accomplishments of the students at its all-black college with a red carpet premiere on Thursday (13Dec07). He says, "We're here to celebrate the accomplishment of your town. This is where it started. You can feel it. These are real people. "It's a small-town story. I've done a few screenings of this movie, but this is the best one." The actor is hoping the film will inspire students at the small institution to reinstate their debate team, which has been defunct for years. Earlier in the day, the actor told students during a campus visit, "I'm pleased as punch for these young people and people that came before us as we celebrate with this town and this school. "We'll try to help the school and get the debate team back on its feet. It seems like the right thing to do. It's time for another winning streak."