The love for family, community upliftment and the pursuit of dreams is powerfully cast into the spotlight in Netflix’s new proudly South African film “The Queenstown Kings”.
The thought-provoking sports drama, which was released on the streaming platform on Friday, November 17, also centres around the power of sport – and in this case, football – as a means of not only eradicating poverty, but also how the beloved game instils in youngsters the values of discipline, commitment and teamwork.
And as is evident in “The Queenstown Kings”, football has the power to elevate young people from challenging backgrounds and place them on the national and international stage, bypassing a life of substance abuse, crime and financial difficulties which many youngsters in South Africa and across the world encounter.
It is the biggest and most popular sport in the world and is the favourite pastime of scores of boys and girls. Its stars serve as role models for aspiring footballers, including those in “The Queenstown Kings”, with some of players on the fictional team in the movie bearing the nicknames of legends such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane and Andrea Pirlo.
Directed by Jahmil XT Qubeka and produced by Layla Swart, the film also transcends the realm of sport, delving into the intricate layers of human relationships and corruption.
And while South Africa’s big cities such as Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban are usually chosen as movie sites, this time rural Queenstown, officially known as Komani, in the Eastern Cape, is given screen time.
The “Queenstown Kings” centres around Buyile “Terror” Mahamba, a washed-up football star, played by Zolisa Xaluva, who is renowned for his roles in “Kings of Jo'burg”, “Generations” and “Gomora.”
Riddled by injuries and indulging in a life of alcohol abuse and partying, “Terror”, whose contract is about to be up at “Mamelodi Sundowns FC” in the movie, returns home to Queenstown, when his father, a football legend in his own right who also played for the Gauteng giants, dies.
On the way to the funeral, he gets arrested for drunk driving and speeding. In a bid to stay out of jail, the struggling football star must face his demons.
This includes mending his relationship with his estranged son, 16-year-old Fezile Gigaba – played by Likhona Mgali – a budding football player who has aspirations of playing for Sundowns, just like his father and grandfather.
“Terror” attempts to clean up his act and takes on a coaching role for the local football team that was managed by his father and where his own career kicked off.
Together with Fezile, the team’s star striker, “Terror” uses his decades of footballing experience to get the team to qualify for the Nedbank Cup. But this turns out to be a harder task than he anticipated as “Terror” deals with his own addiction struggles, challenging family dynamics, poor sporting infrastructure, a lack of funds, as well as violence and corruption.
“The Queenstown Kings” also places celebrity sporting culture in the spotlight as it highlights, through “Terror’s” journey, how going from humble beginnings to the big sporting stage does not always guarantee success as the temptations which come from fame and money sometimes override the passion for football.
Xaluva takes on the role of the 37-year-old washed up footballer with the delicacy and attention to detail that it deserves. He takes the audience on a journey of hope and redemption as “Terror” attempts to right his wrongs and give back to his own family and community with the same talent that took him to the peak of national football.
The cast includes other acting heavyweights, such as veteran Thoko Ntshinga, who is acclaimed for her roles in “Egoli: Place of Gold”, “Interrogation Room” and “The River”. Ntsinga plays the role of Terror’s mother Sasa and is joined by Enhle Mbali Mlotshwa, Vincent Mahlangu and Patrick Ndlovu, who died in May.
Ultimately, “The Queenstown Kings” is poised to touch hearts and ignite thought-provoking conversations about family, community, and the pursuit of dreams. Its compelling narrative artfully weaves an emotional story that is set to strike a chord with audiences worldwide.