25/04/2017 12:30 BST | Updated 27/04/2017 07:06 BST

Khabonina Qubeka's Portrayal Of A Joburg Prostitute Has Won Her Best Indie Actress In The U.S.

Qubeka, who won the award at the Boston International Film Festival, said the movie changed her perception of sex workers.

This year's winner of the Indie Spirit Best Actress Award at the Boston International Film Festival, Khabonina Qubeka, is over the moon.

Qubeka was praised by the judges for her portrayal of Dora, a prostitute living in the Johannesburg CBD in the movie, "Dora's Peace."

HuffPost SA recently caught up with the actress and self-proclaimed minister of fitness.

Qubeka said winning the award was a big deal for her.

"This is big for me because all they saw in the judging process was the production. They don't know me and they have no idea what other work I am involved in. The fact that they just saw my performance and felt I deserved winning the award makes me feel proud," she said.

She said she was humbled that the movie was selected to screen at the Boston International Film Festival, which took place from April 13 as well as the Beijing International Film Festival which concluded on Monday.

Qubeka said before filming the movie, she spoke to prostitutes as part of her research and this led to her changing her perception of sex workers.

"When I first looked at the story I struggled to understand the character I was about to portray. Initially I judged Dora. I did not understand why she chose to be a sex worker. Eventually, I had to open myself to Dora.

"I started to listen to her and look at the world through her eyes. I had to see myself in Dora and find a little bit of her in me and be able to play the role. I was lucky enough to walk in Dora's shoes," said Qubeka.

The "Isidingo" actress said the process of filming the movie was therapeutic. "One of the life lessons that I took away is don't judge people. You don't know why they make the decisions that they do. I learned not to look down on people until I have walked in their shoes and I was lucky enough to walk on Dora's shoes," she said.

The movie's renowned director, Kosta Kalarytis, was awarded the Indie Spirit Special Recognition Award at the festival.

Qubeka said she was sad that South Africans did not appreciate the movie before it went on the international stage.

"The sad thing is that South Africans only take local content seriously once international establishments have given it a nod. Nonetheless, I am excited at how far we have come and very proud of Dora's Peace," said Qubeka.

The movie is available at DVD stores nationwide.