Fight Like a Girl Image

Fight Like a Girl

By Alan Ng | April 17, 2024

Stories from the other side of the earth are not so different than our own. Though Matthew Leutwyler’s Fight Like a Girl is a boxing drama, it’s told in the context of modern-day Congo.

Safi (Ama Qamata) is a nineteen-year-old girl who was kidnapped by rebels two years prior and forced to work in an illegal mine. When a rebel beats her friend, Safi rushes over and clocks the rebel out. Though the punch landed, the assailant is able to subdue Safi, and she is sexually assaulted for her trouble.

After recovering, a determined Safi escapes the rebel camp and goes on a six-day trek through the Congolese jungle to the city of Goma. Here, Safi is rescued by local authorities, who help her as much as possible but cannot find her a job or housing. “Come back next week,” they say.

Sleeping on the street, Safi finds a kind fisherman who lets her sell sambaza (sardines). She’s not a very good salesperson. One night, Safi fends off an attacker with her powerful right hook, which catches the eye of legendary boxing champ Balezi Bagunda, AKA “Kibomango.”

Balezi offers to include Safi in his team, transforming Safi from a fighter into a boxer. But will Safi’s PTSD and memories of her past get in the way of feeling normal once again?

Over the last year, we’ve been getting a steady stream of stories from several African countries—Senegal, Kenya, Rwanda, and now Congo. Many of these stories are similar to Fight Like a Girl in that they shine a light on the plight of women, who are used as sexual targets for powerful and often violent men.

These stories are not so far off from the stories here in the United States as girls find themselves victims of sex trafficking. In these African countries, girls find themselves as prisoners of rebellion and slaves to their whims, whether mining resources or worse.

“…offers to include Safi in his team, transforming Safi from a fighter into a boxer.”

In the States, we’ve seen our fair share of the female fighter and the female boxer—similar stories, different contexts. Here Safi is a natural fighter, and her coach, Balezi, sees her potential when no one else can. Yes, there are still good men out there.

Safi fights to survive, and Balezi teaches her to fight for a purpose. Though the film is about Safi’s journey to the national boxing championships, learning to fight helps heal her trauma and defend those in need.

There’s also a level of authenticity in the performances of Ama Qamata and Hakeem Kae-Kazim. You’re not going to get Shakespearean here, but performances that come from lived experiences. Kae-Kazim is the most experienced actor and is able to ground and elevate the rest of the cast.

Empowerment is the most appropriate term for Qamata to take on Safi, as her struggles in the film represent the struggles of Congolese women today. Thankfully, not hung up on American cultural politics, Fight Like a Girl takes on subjects of patriarchy, slavery, PTSD, and politics in a straight-to-the-point, frank manner.

Let’s be honest, but from a country that has produced hundreds of sports dramas, the boxing sequences are not exactly the quality of American films like Rocky or even our own indie film scene. Yes, it’s an unfair comparison, but at the same time, I’m enjoying seeing the growth and evolution of the indie film scene from Africa.

At Film Threat, I’ve been receiving a steady stream of short films from Africa, but this is the first fully fleshed-out indie feature. It’s downright exciting to see a fantastic film in Fight Like a Girl, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.

For more information about Fight Like a Girl, visit the KG28 Media website.

Fight Like a Girl (2023)

Directed and Written: Matthew Leutwyler

Starring: Ama Qamata, Hakeem Kae-Kazim, etc.

Movie score: 7.5/10

Fight Like a Girl Image

"…takes on subjects of patriarchy, slavery, PTSD, and politics in a straight-to-the-point, frank manner."

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