An aging, womanizing professional boxer and his career-criminal brother take one last shot at success and get more than they've bargained for, in South African director Jahmil X.T. Qubeka's slick, gripping new film.
Jahmil X.T. Qubeka
On his way to becoming one of South Africa's most exciting and prolific new directors, Jahmil X.T. Qubeka returns to TIFF after Of Good Report (2013) and Sew the Winter to My Skin (2018) with a film unlike anything he's made before: a boxing drama.
Opening in 1994, Knuckle City shifts between the childhood and adult lives of the sons (played as children by Inga Mtshizana and Elethu Mfombi) of legendary boxing champion turned gangster Art Nyakama (Zolisa Xaluva). Cut to 2019 and the boys have grown up to follow closely in the footsteps of their father.
Dudu (Bongile Mantsai) has become a womanizing professional boxer and Duke (Thembekile Komani) is now a career criminal, chasing money and thrills at every turn. But Dudu is about to age out before he's had his chance at fame, and the fight promoters have a lot more faith in the young talent coming up behind him than they do in his comeback chances. With Duke set to be released after a three-year stint in prison, Dudu enlists the help of his brother's criminal connections to try to get himself one last shot — but both end up with a much bigger fight than they bargained for.
Qubeka takes audiences to a real-life birthplace of boxing world champions, which also happens to be his home township of Mdantsane in South Africa's Eastern Cape province. Shooting with slick, gripping style, Qubeka also draws attention to the extreme poverty that is the legacy of apartheid, and the toxic-masculine ends to which it pushed those in Indigenous communities. Deliberate and decisive, Knuckle City is a fast-paced confrontation with actual circumstances that pulls no punches.