East London film chosen as SA's official entry in 2020 Academy Awards

Knuckle City, the new movie by acclaimed East London director Jahmil X.T. Qubeka, is South Africa’s official Oscar submission for the 2020 Academy Awards.

The film is set in Buffalo City and was shot on location in the city, in recognition of its phenomenally successful boxing culture, with Mdantsane and neighbouring East London acknowledged as the "Boxing Mecca of South Africa".

Knuckle City director Jahmil X.T. Qubeka

It’s this fascinating phenomenon that lies at the heart of Qubeka’s hard-hitting film. For more than three decades, Mdantsane has produced no less than 20 boxing world champions and more than 50 national champions, which provided the fodder for the plot.

Beginning in 1994, ‘Knuckle City’ tells the story of Dudu Nyakama (Bongile Mantsai), an ageing, womanising, professional boxer from the township and his career-criminal brother Duke (Thembekile Komani) who take one last shot at success and get more than they’ve bargained for.

Qubeka says the energy of the Mdantsane landscape and the visceral fight for survival that is palpable on the streets inspired in him a deep yearning to chronicle the lives of its people through film.

“It is my intention to capture the essence of life in Mdantsane, and the restless pursuit of being a champion within a society that often dictates you are a failure. I am determined to give audiences a glimpse into a world rarely seen, and a deeper understanding of the multi-faceted individuals inhabiting our land.”

Appropriately, the gritty crime drama starts its Oscar-qualifying run at Ster-Kinekor Baywest Mall in Port Elizabeth. The film will screen from 20 to 26 September to make it eligible for the Academy Awards in the category of Best International Feature Film.

Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane, says the government is proud to have provided funding for Knuckle City given the role that Jahmil Qubeka is playing in the advancement of the film industry in the province.

“The film pays tribute to our local heroes, while also delving deep into the reality of their lives. The Eastern Cape Provincial Government is delighted that the film will screen at home first, and we wish the producers and the cast a successful road to Hollywood.”