Dir: Gavin Hood, 2005. Starring: Presley Chweneyagae. Tsotsitaal, Zulu, Xhosa, English, Afrikaans. Black Cinema.

We've all seen the gang leader film a few hundred times. We've seen him in "tha hood" starting fights, we've seen him in a classroom getting into trouble and reporting to the principal's office, we've seen him ride slick cars, and we've seen him lead labor unions into civil uproar.

Place him in South Africa - we have a teenager named Tsotsi (meaning"thug") who doesn't know emotion and lives alone in the ghettos outside of Johannesburg. Place him in a wealthy city, and he steals a woman's Mercedes, as well as shoots her. Riding off, he finds himself not alone - the woman's baby is left in the backseat, and he is left by himself to take care of him. The film follows his journey as he learns how to care for someone other than himself, and the lessons and people that come along the way.

Presley Chweneyagae gives a startling performance for a young boy of such conditions in this Oscar winner of Best Foreign Film. His transformation of the character throughout the film is powerful and well-developed. The story is equally moving, using character and emotion to drive the plot instead of the violence that easily could be used. Tsotsi finds himself in a situation that forces him to change from the very core - he isn't innately kind, nor has he ever had to be.Yet the baby and his cries tug on his heart, and his own past of pain and abandonment are revealed in order for him to remember how it is to feel. He meets a young mother who helps him, and from her he begins to understand the redemption of love and nurture. This is the most organic of the human transformation. The gang leader is here, classrooms and gun fights left behind, attempting parenthood in a nation that echoes his cries.


Tsotsi won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

Posted by:
Tiffany Huang
Feb 16, 2008 2:30pm
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