Directed by: GAVIN HOOD
Starring: PRESLEY CHWENEYAGAE, MOTHUSI
MAGANO, PERCY MATSEMELA, TERRY PHETO
Released by: Miramax Films
Short: An intensely emotional tale of brutality
and redemption set against the contrasting worlds
of rich and poor in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Gangster and the Baby
"sot-see") is a remorseless 19-year-old gang
leader living in a poverty-ridden black township on the
edge of the massive South
African metropolis, Johannesburg. Everything about
him, even his name—translated as "Thug"—is
brutal and uncaring, as he leads his four-man gang in
crimes that range from petty to downright murderous.
one fateful night, Tsotsi (played by Presley Chweneyagae,
who is impressive in his first film role) gets much more
than he bargained for when he goes by himself into the
posh upper-class section of town to commit a car jacking.
In the stolen car is the driver's baby son, a gurgling,
smiling reflection of Tsotsi himself as an infant. Finding
– and keeping – the baby sets off a deluge
of emotions and memories for the young thug, beginning
a radical shift in his life trajectory.
is the kind of film that reminds viewers that going to
the movies can sometimes be a sublime experience. It has
fascinating visual landscapes that are radically different
from what we normally see on film; a vibrant soundtrack
of South African tunes; and an excellent cast of performers.
Most importantly, the insightful and densely layered examination
of what makes a boy a criminal, and how an unexpected
emotional connection can redeem him, testifies that films
can illuminate the human experience.
seems that the world agrees, for "Tsotsi" is
nominated for the Best Foreign Film Academy
Award, after winning numerous accolades and acclaim
at film festivals (AFI, Toronto, etc.) worldwide. But
it wouldn't matter if writer-director Gavin Hood's adaptation
of Athol Fugard's novel of the same name hadn't won a
thing; it is still a deeply moving work, and one that
is not to be missed by anyone who loves movies. One note:
the film is subtitled, since the cast speaks the Tsotsitaal