Posted by Brad Radice on 2011-08-25

At some point in our life we have all cheered for the underdog.  The team, the player or the story book character that overcomes great odds.  The little engines that not only could, but did. 

That story came to life for Samford in 2010-11.  The university debate team of Dan Bagwell and Logan Gramzinski, accomplished something that Samford debaters had not done in 25 years and there is video footage to prove it.  A 45-minute documentary called Nukespeak, and it will be shown at Birmingham’s Side Walk film festival August 28, 2011.

“It follows the team as they try and reach the elimination rounds for the first time since 1986,” explained Samford senior debate team member Dan Bagwell.  And, “for a group of students who were out just to get an ‘A’ in class it was certainly a welcome surprise.”    

Nukespeak chronicles Samford’s historic run from the District 6 qualifying tournament in Atlanta, Georgia, all the way to their top 16 finish in Dallas, Texas this past March—including a victory against top ranked Vanderbilt University.

Bagwell is not only a member of the debate team, but he is also a Nukespeak director. “I was able to give some insight to the members of the documentary crew that were maybe a little lost at times but were certainly interested in what was going on,” said Bagwell.  “It’s really a refreshing look at something a lot of people don’t know about.”

And, that is the ‘two for one’ beauty of Nukespeak.  It shines light on Samford debate, while showcasing the skill of debate.

“It really has a value of being a documentary that’s both engaging and informative to the common person, who might not know that debate is not two guys standing behind a podium in a suit talking slowly,” said Bagwell.  “It’s very fast paced and it’s very competitive.”

Hence the documentary’s title Nukespeak.  A majority of the fast paced back and forth talk dealt with immigration issues, with the worst case scenario leading to nuclear war.

In fact, a meltdown of sorts came over the documentary crew.  Excitement boiled over when they received word from Birmingham’s Side Walk Film Festival, that Nukespeak, was in their rundown of films this coming weekend.

“We submitted the film to Sidewalk with hopes that maybe we’d get a call back,” laughed Bagwell.  “We all joked it would be a huge breakthrough for all of our film careers.” Then the phone call came.  “When we got news it would be airing at the film festival I was floored.”

Production on Nukespeak was certainly tough for Bagwell, who is also a film studies minor.  Two cameras were used and in debate tournaments you do not get two takes. “It was certainly a challenge but not an unmanageable one,” he said. “I’m really happy with the end result.”

Also being debuted this weekend at the film festival is Man In The Glass:  The Dale Brown Story.  This documentary chronicles the story of historic basketball coach Dale Brown. 

Samford alumni worked on this film.  Patrick Sheehan directed, Gannon Weaver produced and Jared Shull was in charge of editing.  Melanie Jeffcoat, an adjunct professor at Samford, associate produced.

Both Nukespeak and Man In The Glass will be shown Sunday, August 28, 2011 at the Carver Theater.


Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.