The Durban International Film Festival (DIFF), organized by the Centre for Creative Arts (University of KwaZulu-Natal) heralded Jahmil X. T. Qubeka’s “Knuckle City” as its opening film for its 40th edition. The film will open the DIFF on Thursday 18 July at Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre.
The film, produced and edited by award-winning Layla Swart of Yellowbone Entertainment, alongside Mzansi Magic, is the acclaimed Qubeka’s long-awaited fourth feature film. Analyzing notions of inherited toxic gender and the underbelly of the fighting world, Knuckle City is a gripping exploration of the psychology of a boxer from the Mdantsane township referred to as the boxing mecca of South Africa.
Knuckle City follows the adventure of Dudu Nyakama, a down and out aging boxer as he wrestles to secure the one fight that he believes will uplift his fractured family. Contending that the underbelly of the boxing world is rife with criminality, Dudu unwittingly enlists the support of his reckless but resourceful, gangster brother who’s an ex-convict. Haunted by the ghost of their father, Dudu soon finds that the match at home is far more worrisome than any opponent he can possibly face in the ring.
The film features Bongile Mantsai as Dudu Nyakama, Thembekile Komani as Duke Nyakama as stars, and other cast includes Nomhle Nkonyeni, Siv Ngesi, Zolisa Xaluva, Patrick Ndlovu, Faniswa Yisa, Owen Sejake, and Angela Sithole.
Commenting on the film the producer, Layla Swart said, “The film is a mealy and authentic glimpse into the ghetto life of one of South Africa’s largest and oldest townships packaged in an entertaining and accessible feature film. We believe a film is an object of manifestation of the evolution of the South African narrative, a slice of life in a largely undocumented corner of the country. Knuckle City is a much-needed plus to the canon of South African cinema, where the less addressed aspects of the residue and consequence of our collective national past end in the immediate issues confronting us in the present day.”
“We are very delighted to be opening our 40th edition with this mealy raw film by Jahmil,” says Chipo Zhou, DIFF Festival Manager. “This is a movie which will certainly do very well as a cinema release, with boxing as the means to tell the story, and its multi-layered narrative will resonate with audiences worldwide.”
Qubeka, who grew up in Mdantsane in the early ’80s and ’90s said, “It was an experience that has wield the entirety of my life. The energy of the landscape and the intuitive fight for survival that is evident on the streets has motivated me in deep yearning to document the lives of its inhabitants through cinema.”
“It is my decision to document the essence of life in Mdantsane, and the restless struggle of being a champion within a society that often terms you as a failure. I am determined with this film to give audiences a glance into a world rarely seen, and a deeper understanding of the multi-faceted inhabitants inhabiting our land.”