Jahmil X.T. Qubeka’s film to open 40th Durban International Film Festival. Supplied

Actor Bongile Mantsai has won the best male performance award at the 9th annual Africa International Film Festival (Afriff) for his role in the yet to be released local film, Knuckle City.

The awards were hosted in Nigeria’s newly constructed Filmhouse Cinemas at Landmark Retail Village.

Mantsai portrays womanising boxer Dudu “Nightrider” Nyakama in the film that pays homage to Mdantsane township in East London, known for producing some of the country’s leading boxers.

Knuckle City tells the story of the highs and lows of Mzansi’s boxing Mecca and also exposes its ugly side through those who don’t make a success of the sport.

It unpacks misplaced masculinity in the township. The film delves into the exploitation and violence which are a regular part of life for many women in the Eastern Cape and interrogates the role of men in ending violence against women and children.

Knuckle City is the brainchild of award-winning film-maker and screenwriter Jahmil XT Qubeka.

The film received raving reviews from critics at the various film festivals including the Toronto International Film Festival, Afriff and the Durban Film Festival, where Mantsai first won the best actor award. Mantsai began his career at the Phambili Theatre Project in 1997, which was followed by an illustrious career on stage before transitioning to TV and film.

Some of his screen roles include playing Vija in 2017’s Inxeba, a notable performance in 2018’s Sew the Winter to my Skin, and his much talked about role in e.tv’s Scandal! as the slippery villain, Mthunzi Mayisa.

Knuckle City - which also stars Thembekile Komani, Siv Ngesi, Faniswa Yisa, Awethu Hleli, the late Nomhle Nkonyeni, Zolisa Xaluva, Owen Sejake, and Angela Sithole - was chosen as South Africa’s official Oscar submission for the 92nd Academy Awards by the National Film and Video Foundation.

It opens across cinemas on February 28.

The Sunday Independent