In a career that’s already netted her an Oscar nomination, Taraji P. Henson has appeared in films about men who age backwards, a pimp who becomes a rap impresario, and a competition among assassins. Not long ago, though, a movie project caught her attention because the plot sounded so unusual — an African-American woman becoming coach of a men’s golf team. And it came from real life.
"That was the first thing that attracted me to this project," Henson said Monday night by phone from New York City. The resulting film, From the Rough, will be shown 7:30 p.m. Wednesday night at TPAC's Polk Theater as the opening attraction in the sixth annual International Black Film Festival of Nashville, which continues throughout the weekend with premieres, panels and parties at venues across the city.
In director Pierre Bagley’s film, Henson portrays longtime Tennessee State University golf coach Catana Starks. Originally a swim coach, Starks was asked to take over the TSU men's golf team in 1986. Finding only one black golfer on a squad without much promise, Starks traveled the world finding talent while building a highly competitive team over two decades. Some of her star players came from Australia, Hong Kong, France and the United Kingdom.
"The thing about her that's so amazing, and what I wanted to portray, was her determination to succeed," Henson says. "She attracted golfers who weren't black, but came from impoverished backgrounds and were able to excel. It is an amazing story."