The Female Slum Boxers of Kampala

Katanga is Kampala’s largest slum proving shelter, community and work opportunities to nearly 20,000 people. Robert Mentov and Dwight Jantzi co-direct this honest retelling of Helen Baleke’s life in Katanga and the makeshift vigilante group of girls she trains to protect their home.

After being assaulted on the way to school at the age of 16, Bakele was admitted to Katanga’s Rhino Boxing Club to help her regain confidence and take revenge on her attacker. However, what noone foresaw was that the gym’s leaking roof, frequent flooding or rudimentary equipment was no barrier to Bakele becoming Uganda’s first competitive female boxer.

Mentov and Jantzi explain: “We spent several weeks with Bakele and the rest of the boxers in order to collaborate on a narrative level and tell the most honest story possible through their eyes.” The directors, who frequently turn to analogue processes to create their work, used 16mm, Hi8 and digital film while on location in Katanga; and weaving between the different film formats are snippets of the volatile yet resilient nature of everyday life in Katanga.

Using full-frame close-ups and aggressive competition footage, Mentov and Jantzi capture the endless fount of physical and emotional power that Bakele and her group of female boxers possess. Bakele comments: “We are mothers, we are daughters. Before we suffered but now we fight back.”


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