Could controversial Of Good Report filmmaker Jahmil XT Qubeka's latest offering Knuckle City be SA's next big Oscar hopeful? Judging by the early reception after making its world premiere at the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) this weekend, the film is off to a good start. By Emmanuel Tjiya
Starring Bongile Mantsai, Siv Ngesi, Nomhle Nkonyeni, Zolisa Xaluva, Owen Sejake, Khulu Skenjana and Angela Sithole, Knuckle City debuted to positive reviews.
"Qubeka's take on the boxing movie is a visceral descent into chaos, spurred by toxic masculinity and how it breaks the body and mind," Kelsey Adams reviewed for Now magazine.
Historically many films have started their Oscar race at TIFF. The festival has been on the money in recent memory with Best Picture winners Argo, 12 Years A Slave, Slumdog Millionaire and The King's Speech.While hopes are very high for the film, Qubeka is exercising caution. After all, last year he debuted Sew the Winter to my Skin and it didn't gain much momentum past the festival.
"TIFF is the largest and most prestigious film festival in the world. It is the ultimate platform to launch an independent film," Qubeka told Sowetan. "It's a little early to call if we are in fact in the [Oscar] race. We are in contention to be considered but the discretion is on the NFVF [National Film and Video Foundation] to appoint South Africa's entry. "There are a lot of good South African films that will be garnering for the same accolade, so may the best film win."
NFVF will make their official submission for Best Foreign Language Film at the 92nd annual Academy Awards in a few weeks. The film was Nkonyeni's final project and she never got to the finished product before she died in July.
"Mama Nomhle passed two weeks before we completed the post production of the film so she did not get to see her final performance," Qubeka said,"We recently held a private screening of the film in her home town of Port Elizabeth where at least ten members of her family came to see her final performance.
"It was a bitter-sweet moment to see her final curtain call leave the audience in absolute stitches."
Knuckle City depicts the story a down and out boxer in Mdantsane - known as the boxing mecca of Mzansi.
"The film is certainly very different to anything I have done before in that at its core is a tender expression of the love of kin," Qubeka said. "Despite the raw energy of the sport, it's more sentimental than any other picture I have made before."