South African film Dora’s Peace has won two awards at the prestigious 15th Boston International Film Festival in the US. Dancer, singer and actress Khabonina Qubeka walked away with the Best Actress Award for her role as Dora, a hardened prostitute living in Hillbrow. Renowned director Kosta Kalarytis bagged the Indie Spirit Special Recognition Award at the festival, which brings together filmmakers from around the world, and celebrates them for their outstanding achievements.
The film tells the story of a woman who sets out to save a gifted young boy from the violent clutches of organised crime. In the process, she is forced to rediscover aspects of her own lost humanity. The film was shot on location in Johannesburg, and was released in cinemas in August last year.
Qubeka portrays a woman who has to fend for herself – and an orphaned child – in very difficult circumstances, and she does so with seriously badass gusto. It’s a journey of self-discovery that has a message for women across South Africa and across generations, about deriving the strength to stand up for themselves and what they believe in.
“Dora is emotionally complex,” says Kalarytis. “Qubeka broke the mould of the typical aging prostitute so often seen in films. She’s not anyone’s sidekick, and her character is memorable, authentic and deeply human. She reflects the reality lived by many women, in South African and elsewhere around the world. We are thrilled that her performance and the film itself have been singled out for the jury in Boston. It’s a great honour.”
As a streetwise older woman who is practically forced into looking after a boy who is being targeted by a gang, Qubeka conveys a remarkable narrative about the quiet strength of “ordinary” women. Although she faces plenty of obstacles, she perseveres. Her steady determination exemplifies an empowered woman who refuses to be threatened by unscrupulous, abusive men in the face of what’s right.
“Dora has a complexity that female characters are rarely afforded,” producer Dumi Gumbi of The Ergo Company. “This tale of self-discovery and, ultimately, self-respect, is hopeful and inspiring. It’s a remarkable portrayal and proves that everybody’s experiences deserve representation.” film critics have responded positively to this tale of un unlikely heroine and her journey of self-discovery.
On its release in South Africa, critics hailed Qubeka’s performance as ‘magnetic, with IOL’s Theresa Smith calls it “a poignant crime drama” and a “strong surprise debut from director, Kosta Kalarytis” in which “you can practically smell the weird combo of hair relaxer, uncollected garbage and braai meat that permeates the Hillbrow streets”. The Sowetan called the film “a much-needed departure from all the glossy rom-coms and launches us into an exhilarating path of crime drama”, describing it as fast-paced, with “a heart-palpitating action sequence central to the screenplay that will leave you begging for more just in the first 15 minutes”.
“Khabonina Qubeka is an actress to watch and we congratulate her and Kosta Kalarytis for their well-deserved wins,” says Helen Kuun, CEO of Indigenous Film Distribution, which distributed the film in South Africa. “Local audiences can look forward to seeing her later this year in Gersh Kgamedi’s She Is King.”
Dora’s Peace is currently available on DVD in South Africa.