Bongile Mantsai channels his inner boxer in new SA film, Knuckle City.
The star plays the lead role of Dudu Nyakama. Once a boxing legend, Dudu is now fighting to keep his name alive in the ring, and to keep his family alive outside of it.
Sitting down for a chat with Channel24, Bongile told us about life on set, his hectic training regimen, and what he wants South Africans to take away from this film.
"With this movie, it has different elements, but people will always focus on one aspect of the movie. There's love in this movie, there's passion, there's sport, there's community, there's family. In every aspect of it, there are challenges," the star says.
He is fully aware that South Africans may have an adverse reaction to the dark nature of the film but believes that the struggles his character faces are relatable and should start conversations that we need to have as a country.
"As South Africans, when we do such work, we want to be able to relate and also sit down and talk about the works that we do. Most of the times we don't talk about our problems, most of the times we create movies, we open wounds, and then we leave it there."
Knuckle City first premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in 2019. Later that year, the film would become South Africa's entry into the 2020 Oscars. While it was not shortlisted as a nominee, Bongile understands the magnitude of this accomplishment.
"It's always exciting excelling because for a long time our works weren't even recognised overseas. For me, an Oscar, I mean, come on! Everyone knows what it takes to be there, what it takes to even be nominated. I could tell that we did work hard. We did put South Africa on the map, and that was the whole point [of the film]."
Knuckle City premieres in SA cinemas on Friday 28 February.