#BoxingWorld; #TIFF; #KnuckleCity
Jahmil X.T. Qubeka, the director of the film, 'Knuckle City' and its screenplay writer, recounts the experiences based on his real-life birthplace of boxing world champions in the township of Mdantsane in South Africa's Eastern Cape province. Qubeka draws attention to the extreme poverty which pushes the male counterparts of the communities to the toxic-masculine rings of boxing. " It is an ode to my formative years and an exploration and fundamental dissection of the toxic masculinity that continues to purvey in this space," said Qubeka.
Image: Courtesy of TIFF
Asha Bajaj, IBNS Canada Special Correspondent as well as Editor of Canadian-Media catches up with Qubeka to discuss the salient features of the film.
Jahmil, you have been internationally and locally acknowledged for your directorial work and have premiered feature films in almost every significant festival across the globe. Can you name a few genres in which had made films? Please provide some examples.
Genres in which I have made films are Documentaries, fables, television dramas, commercials, science fiction and feature films.
Examples are: Talk to Me (05) is a documentary; Of Good Report (2013) is a feature film; Sew the Winter to My Skin, an action film.; A Small Town Called Descent is a 2010 South African crime drama; Stillborn is science fiction Short.
Elaborate on Peabody Awards and BAFTA awards. Can you name some of your works which received Peabody Awards and a BAFTA Awards.
Peabody Award was created to honor excellence in radio broadcasting and was established in 1940 by a committee of the National Association of Broadcasters. It is the oldest major electronic media award in the United States. Final Peabody Award winners are selected unanimously by the program's Board of Jurors.
BAFTA stands for The British Academy of Film and Television Arts. BAFTA Film Awards are presented in an annual award show hosted by BAFTA to honour the best British and international contributions to film.
I was awarded Peabody Award in 2005 in America for ‘Talk to Me’, an AIDS documentary I directed for Sesame Street and In 2013 for my feature film ‘Of Good Report’.
My works which received BAFTA awards were: ‘Of Good Report’; ‘Sew the Winter to My Skin’;
Coming to the film “Knuckle City”, why did you consider the township of Mdantsane in South Africa's Eastern Cape province as the chief place for boxing sports?
South Africa is a sports-loving country and boxing is one of the most-followed sports. And on a rare occasion it is the subject of a film. The township of Mdantsane in South Africa's Eastern Cape province is known informally as South Africa’s boxing hub. It is also the historic birthplace of many stars with boxing world championships over the years.
The fictional film focuses on the culture of boxing in the township, where one of the ways to navigate life is in the boxing ring. Boxing Ring is presented as a community and the struggles we face in that ring are what we face in a community. Fight between families, and domestic violence are themes reflecting the lives of the community. The people of the community would come and watch the shooting of the film and then correct us as they are more familiar with what they do. It is based on reality.
Image credit: TIFF2019
The background of the portrayal of poverty in the film is set against the tough lives of the boxers? Can you explain the connection between poverty and boxing competition?
Boxing is very primal sport. It is also considered dinosaur sport. Its popularity springs from the fact that it brings money and is run by gangsters. Boxing is also a corrupt game and represents the metaphor of the male or man as corrupt as boxing. The boxers literally fight for survival in a poverty-stricken place. Poverty teaches them great endurance in this game. It is also a successful genre to be filmed. People like blood and some are healed by the sight of blood. People like action.
Dudu (Bongile Mantsai) and Duke (Thembekile Komani), two brothers were earlier shown in the film with Duke following a criminal path and Dudu trying virtuously to mend the broken family. Once their father said to the children that family comes first and we should all remain together. What other message do you bring in the story besides the importance of family being together?
I am not one to talk about messages. I do not preach. My role is to entertain the viewers. I do not see the togetherness of the family as the moral of the story. It is the contradiction of this belief which appeals to me more. I give enough space for the viewers to decide about the moral of the story. The main topics that I discuss are masculinity, frustration, dinosaurs perspective of identity.
Duke follows the traits of criminality of his father. The pattern of cause and effect is the main force of the film.
Dudu, on the other hand follows a virtuous path and tries to mend the broken family and has to take the help of his criminal brother to get enrolled in the boxing sport and fight to bring the family out of poverty.
There are several layers of the story. Peeling of each layer brings forth the truth of the film.