"Knuckle City" will open the 40th Durban International Film Festival on Thursday. Picture: Supplied

Writer and director, Jahmil X.T. Qubeka is over the moon after his film, "Knuckle City" was selected to open the 40th Durban International Film Festival, that starts on July 18. 

The movie is Qubeka’s fourth feature film in his two-decade career and it’s a homage to his Mdantsane upbringing. 

“I’m over the moon and deeply honoured by this selection. DIFF is a festival that is very special to me on my journey as a filmmaker, and it has been a platform where I have found both community and affirmation,” said Qubeka. 

"Knuckle City" stars Golden Horn Award winner, Bongile Mantsai, Thembekile Komani, Faniswa Yisa, Patrick Ndlovu, Siv Ngesi, Owen Sejake, Angela Sithole, Nomhle Nkonyeni and Zolisa Xaluva.

It follows the journey of Dudu Nyakama (Mantsai), a down-and-out ageing boxer as he struggles to attain 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 help of his reckless but resourceful gangster brother who's coming out of jail. 

Haunted by the ghost of their father, Dudu soon finds that the fight at home is far more challenging than any opponent he could possibly face in the ring.

“It’s my first film set in the area that raised me. It is an ode to my formative years and an exploration and fundamental dissection of the toxic masculinity that continues to purvey in this space,” he said. 

This film pays homage to Qubeka's upbringing in Mdantsane. Pic: Supplied

He said the inspiration that brought about "Knuckle City" was inspired by great fighting and crime films such as "Raging Bull", "The Fighter", "Rocky" and "Mean Streets", with the emphasis being a journey towards his self actualisation and manhood. 

“It’s a violent coming-of-age story which is so prevalent in the townships of our childhoods. Mdantsane has produced multiple world champions, and for some inexplicable reason has forged a legacy of boxing prowess against all odds. This for me is an indication of the elements that have shaped this environment and manifests in a psychology of physical battle, which represents the inner tussle with self. Boxing is a core part of the culture of this region, and this deserves to be immortalised on film,” said Qubeka. 

Some of the themes that run through the film are transformation, legacy inheritance, pride, redemption, forgiveness and love. 

Qubeka wrote the screenplay and always had in mind the actors he wanted to be in the film.  

“I pride myself on the choice of actors I choose to collaborate with and I respect and value them. I enjoy working with the same actors in different films, they become my inspiration and execution of my vision. I believe every actor brings something different and uniquely special. But most important for me is generosity of spirit,” he said.  

He said he could not wait to put the viewer in the ring and let them decide whether the film was great or not. 

“Expectations are far exceeded and I hope viewers are thoroughly entertained,” said Qubeka.