Mike Downey

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Fighting for Life

Fighting for Life

The documentary film Fighting for Life gives a unique look inside the South-African prison Drakenstein Correctional Center and the impressive work of Dutch boxing coach Sharita van der Hulst in the rehabilitation program for prisoners that are serving heavy sentences. The film shows Sharita at work during a one week coaching course that she provides to selected prisoners who want to become a boxing coach themselves.

Sharita has a strong belief in the power of boxing. Learning all about the sport and becoming a boxing coach provides the prisoners with a new goal and with qualifications when they return into society after serving their sentences. With her professional and enthusiastic commitment Sharita manages to gain the confidence of the prisoners who speak highly of her and of what they learn.

One of the prisoners, Nkosinati Biyana, has a drive and passion for boxing that very few other prisoners possess. It is unusual in African culture for a man to be taught by a woman but in Biyana's case he takes it up with an open mind. Later this proves to be very valuable to him as he, after his release from prison, becomes a coach and mentor of children in his neighborhood and gets an opportunity to become a professional boxer.

Drakenstein Correctional Center, formerly called Victor Verster Prison, is the place where Nelson Mandela served his last 18 months of captivity before he was released in 1990. During his time as president Mandela, himself a boxer, changed the prison system in South-Africa by introducing a vision on rehabilitation.


  • Guirlande d'Honneur for Sport & Society - Sport values, Sport Movies & Tv - Milano International FICTS Fest, Milano, Italy, 2018