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SA selects Knuckle City as official submission for Oscars 2020

Photo: Supplied.

Photo: Supplied.

Published Sep 11, 2019


Award-winning filmmaker and screenwriter Jahmil X.T. Qubeka’s latest feature film, Knuckle City, has been selected as South Africa’s official submission for the 2020 Oscars.

Makhosazana Khanyile, CEO of the National Film & Video Foundation (NFVF), made the announcement.

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It’s been a great year for X.T. Qubeka. His movie, Knuckle City, was selected to open the 40th Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) earlier this year. 

The story is set in Mdantsane, a rural Eastern Cape town and the boxing mecca in Mzansi. The movie explores toxic masculinity through the fractured relationship of two brothers. 

Success through the sport becomes a huge propellant for the financially polarised community.

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In one of his interviews, the filmmaker explained: “What struck me most about this township, which is where I grew up, is that it has produced 17 boxing world champions since 1994 – both men and women in different divisions. The kids grow up seeing these champs driving around town in their fancy cars. But many also fall from grace and land up right back where they came from. I wanted to explore why and how this happens.”

He went on to draw attention to boxing legend Manelisi “Leli” Mbilase, who turned to a life of crime after he quit boxing in 2009. In 2018, he was stoned to death by mostly female community members after he was allegedly caught robbing two women of their belongings.

Much of his personal observations permeate the script. And, in doing so, he explores the conundrums of a failed boxer and the domino-effect of their desperate acts on society.

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Much like Of Good Report, which was banned for a short period of time, he explores contentious issues with commendable bravery. 

In Of Good Report, he dwelled on the relationship between an introverted high school teacher in rural South Africa and a pupil. The obsession led to tragedy. 

Yes, the subject matter of X.T. Qubeka’s films makes viewers squirm out of sheer awkwardness or embarrassment. But he also educates and informs. 

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On the great news, producer Layla Swart, who co-owns Yellowbone Entertainment with X.T. Qubeka, said: “We are exceptionally proud of this achievement. “It’s a harrowing tale of a man lost, who tries to look after his family even as he is trapped in the seedy world of underground boxing. The film packs an emotional punch as hefty as any of the gruesome on-screen ones as it explores greedy commercial exploitation, poverty, violence, race, and what it means to be a man.”

Yesterday (2004) and Tsotsi (2005) were the only two South African movies that got an Oscar nomination with the latter film winning.

All eyes are now on Knuckle City bringing home the trophy. The movie opens on the big screen in South Africa on December 27.  

IOL Entertainment

* This story has been selected as study material for the National High Schools Quiz final. For more stories click  here.

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