Dora’s Peace, starring Khabonina Qubeka (pictured) in the title role, and directed by Kosta Kalarytis, has opened to excellent reviews.
Shot on location in Johannesburg, the film tells the story of Dora, a Hillbrow prostitute, 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.
Dora is smart and tough, and used to beating the odds by doing things her way, but she also has a good heart. She’s seen it all and done it all. Into her solitary existence comes 12-year-old Peace, a talented artist and the son of her down and out neighbour.
Before long Dora will be forced to make a decision – protect Peace from the bad guys or let them win. Her only ally is Ravi, a Rasta-loving Indian taxi driver with a wicked sense of humour. What ensues will thrill and chill audiences, as Dora comes up against her hardest opponent yet – her own true nature.
“Dora is the type of strong, unforgettable female lead that audiences love,” says Helen Kuun, of Indigenous Film Distribution, which is distributing the film in South Africa.
Khabonina is a familiar face on South African television and has been nominated multiple times for her roles in series including Muvhango, The Lab, The Wild and Rhythm City.
Her first TV role was as the controversial Doobsie on SABC 2’s Muvhango and then she quickly followed up with more roles in The Mating Game and Erfsondes. She also acted in the successful theatre production The Table.
Currently she is starring as Nina Zamdela in the popular soapie Isidingo on SABC 3. Aside from her television and feature film work, she is also a dancer, presenter and musician. Dora’s Peace sees her take the lead role in a film for the first time.
In the role of Peace’s mother Connie is another well-known female face, Hlubi Moya, probably best known for her role as Nandipha in Isidingo. She has also appeared in a number of local and international feature films, including How to Steal 2 Million, Death Race 3, and the acclaimed iNumber Number.
The ensemble cast includes Danny Keogh (Invictus, Starship Troopers 3: Marauder), Ronnie Nyakale (Jerusalema, Blood Diamond), and 12-year old Paballo Koza (Thola, The Blanket), Molefi Monaisa, Meren Reddy, Denel Honeyball, Israel Makoe, Tinah Mnumzana, Yule Masiteng, Manaka Ranaka, Masilo Magoro, Blessed Boshomane, Omo Kondile, and Sebelethu Bonkolo.
“The film deals with people who inhabit the gangland that is Hillbrow,” says director Kalarytis. “Aspects of my own Greek background and culture are also incorporated, which I don’t think has been done before in a South African movie. In making the film, the most important aspect was the relationship between Dora and the young boy, Peace. By taking on the role of protector and nurturer, she is forced to confront difficult issues about her own life and her past.”
Following its countrywide release, film critics have responded positively to this tale of an unlikely heroine and her journey of self-discovery.
IOL’s Theresa Smith calls it “a poignant crime drama” and a “strong and surprise debut from director Kosta Kalarytis”. She adds that Qubeka, whose performance she describes as magnetic, creates a complex character, “eschewing stereotype to show us an older woman who has learnt to survive, she plays to her strengths and has no mercy”.
Smith also has praise for the script too and for Geo Hohn’s music which “beautifully underscores the atmosphere, egging on suspense one moment, sharing delight the next”, and for Nic Hofmeyr’s cinematography.
Emmanuel Tjiya writing in The Sowetan, says the film is a “much needed departure from all the glossy rom-coms and launches us into an exhilarating path of crime drama”.
But it’s Qubeka’s performance that nails it: “With her finesse, Qubeka gently ushers you through a tale of how and adolescent mistake turned the world of a once naïve village upside-down, thrusting her into a dark world of prostitution and drugs in downtown Jozi. Qubeka’s genius in her portrayal is in how she manages to capture a strong character, with countless demons, but at the same time bring to the table so much heart and vulnerability that it’s sure to resonate with a female audience”.
On its opening weekend, the film took 85% of the box office of Yesterday (South Africa’s Oscar submission in 2004), 309% of Life Above All (South Africa’s Oscar submission in 2010), and 106% of Monster’s Ball, which earned Halle Berry an Oscar for best actress in 2002.
“Dora’s Peace is in good company, and performing well to its intended market,” says Kuun. “It’s clear that the film 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, but what is most exciting is Khabonina Qubeka’s performance as Dora. She’s and actress to watch and local audiences can look forward to seeing her next year in Gersh Kgamedi’s She is King.”
View the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_quAQpZoSI