School of Arts

Action-packed Knuckle City opens Durban International Film Festival

Knuckle City opened the Durban International Film Festival.
Knuckle City opened the Durban International Film Festival.
Knuckle City opened the Durban International Film Festival.
Knuckle City opened the Durban International Film Festival.

Produced and edited by award-winning Layla Swart of Yellowbone Entertainment, together with Mzansi Magic, Knuckle City is Qubeka’s much anticipated fourth feature film. Dissecting notions of inherited toxic masculinity and the underbelly of the fighting world, it is a riveting exploration of the psychology of a fighter from Mdantsane Township, known as the boxing mecca of South Africa.

A slice of street life, Knuckle City follows the journey of Dudu Nyakama, a down and out ageing boxer as he struggles to attain the one fight that he believes will uplift his fractured family. Certain that the underbelly of the boxing world is rife with criminality, Dudu unwittingly enlists the help of his reckless but resourceful, gangster brother who’s coming out of jail.

Haunted by the ghost of their father, Dudu soon finds that the fight at home is far more challenging than any opponent he could face in the ring.

The film stars Bongile Mantsai as Dudu Nyakama and Thembekile Komani as Duke Nyakama, and the cast includes, amongst others, Faniswa Yisa, Patrick Ndlovu, Siv Ngesi, Owen Sejake, Angela Sithole, Nomhle Nkonyeni and Zolisa Xaluva.

‘The film is a gritty and authentic glimpse into the street life of one of South Africa’s largest and oldest townships packaged in an entertaining and accessible feature film,’ said producer, Swart. ‘We believe it is a tangible manifestation of the evolution of the South African narrative, a slice of life in a largely undocumented corner of the country. Knuckle City is a much-needed addition to the canon of South African cinema, where the less discussed aspects of the residue and repercussions of our collective national past culminate in the immediate issues confronting us in the present day.’

DIFF Festival Manager Ms Chipo Zhou said, ‘We were very excited to open our 40th edition with this gritty raw film by Jahmil. This is a film which we believe will do very well as a cinema release, with boxing as the means to tell the story, and its multi-layered narrative will resonate with audiences globally.’

The film’s dialogue is in Xhosa with English subtitles. Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Humanities Professor Nhlanhla Mkhize remarked, ‘This is the year of indigenous languages and it is great to see film directors using their own languages to tell stories about South Africa and Africa as a whole. Film can unite the African continent and be used as a vehicle for social cohesion.’

Qubeka, who grew up in Mdantsane in the 1980s and ’90s said that this ‘experience has shaped the entirety of my life. The energy of the landscape and the visceral fight for survival that is palpable on the streets has inspired in me a deep yearning to chronicle the lives of its inhabitants through cinema.

‘It is my intention to capture the essence of life in Mdantsane, and the restless pursuit of being a champion within a society that often dictates you are a failure. I am determined with this film to give audiences a glimpse into a world rarely seen, and a deeper understanding of the multi-faceted individuals inhabiting our land.’

Acting eThekwini Mayor, Councillor Fawzia Peer observed, ’25 years into our democracy, we have so many untold stories. We have a budget of R15 million aimed at supporting development projects and local filmmakers. We applaud the DIFF for elevating Durban as a film city.’

Programme booklets with the full screening schedule and synopses of all the films are available free of charge at cinemas, and other public information outlets.

For more information, visit or any of the DIFF’s social media pages.

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