BIFF YEAR ’ROUND Spring 2022
Wednesday, April 27, 6:30 PM, 2022
Downtown Beloit Association Office
557 E. Grand Ave. Downtown Beloit
Zoom Q&A Following!
Frank McKinney is the first (and only) Black college rugby coach in the U.S. When Frank is hired to build a new rugby team at a predominantly white Southern university, his dream was of bringing diversity to the game that he loved was suddenly within reach. Character and good grades required. Rugby skills? Optional.
Frank McKinney has been one of my closest friends for more than 26 years. We have a lot in common and know similar struggles: sharing the need to be liked, overcoming financial setbacks, searching for acceptance and love from our fathers. Both of us, like many, are on a lifelong search to figure out what success means.
Going in, I thought this would be a movie about rugby. But it grew into something much deeper. Redemption. Purpose. Accountability. Dignity. When you see the players slam into each other—hard enough to make you flinch—the struggle and pain we watch on the field is just puppetry to what they are experiencing and fighting for in their lives. For this underdog team, winning isn’t about championships and trophies.
We started filming this movie before the world knew what COVID-19 was, before the horrific death of George Floyd and the widespread protests against police brutality and racism. These events have shifted the dialogue about race and uncovered inequality that was allowed to function in plain sight. I’m a white male. And race became something that Frank and I talked about in a way that we hadn’t in our 26-year friendship. We have similar struggles, but I will never truly know how difficult it is to be black in a society that actively works to keep African Americans down.
When I see Frank on the green grass of the rugby pitch, I know he’s right where he wants to be. He’s found meaning and purpose as a coach and, strangely, this violent sport has helped to heal the kind of deep wounds that no one can see. I am honored and truly humbled that he has trusted me to tell his story. Directing this movie has showed me how sport can heal, and in the process, I have learned more not only about my friend, but also about myself.
Thomas A. Morgan
Thomas Morgan is a film producer and director. His award- winning work includes Soufra (2017), Storied Streets (2014) and Waiting for Mamu (2013). Thomas was also executive producer for India’s Daughter (2015), which received the Peabody award for journalism, and the Emmy-nominated film Silenced (2014).
His latest film, Scrum, is being released in the spring of 2021- a story of the only African American college rugby coaches in the United States and his dream to bring diversity to the game at a mostly white, affluent university in the south.
Morgan has spoken before the US Congress, the PPL Forum at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, for the United Nations on disruptive innovations, and given numerous TEDx talks. He received his honorary Doctorate degree from his alma mater Central Michigan University and teaches documentary filmmaking to young students.
Morgan is a father of four and recently relocated back to the United States after living in Singapore for three years.