Buy This Film
2005
Rated: R for graphic violence, graphic language, and animal cruelty.
Genre: Foreign Drama Thriller
Directed By: Gavin Hood
Running Time: 1:34
Review by: Felix Vasquez Jr.
Review Date: 2/13/07
Special Features:
Commentary by: Screenwriter/director Gavin HoodUnknown Format
Original language track: Tsotsi-Taal
Alternate endings with optional commentary with screenwriter/director Gavin Hood
Deleted scenes with optional commentary with screenwriter/director Gavin Hood
"The Making of Tsotsi" featurette
Director's short film: The Storekeeper
Zola music video
TSOTSI

 

Itís rare to find a film that receives so much hype and lives up to the expectations it sets. ďTsotsiĒ had me skittish, Iíll admit. Not because it was foreign, but because I just didnít know what to expect. Hoodís drama is about the chaotic life in the ghettos of South Africa, and we follow for a week, Tsotsi, a cold and often violent young man. He goes by the name of Tsotsi, which in English means Thug, and no one is sure of his real name. A gang member named Fela asks of Tsotsi and the friends he leads to do some jobs for him, and one night in an attempt to please him, he robs a wealthy woman outside of her house. In a fit of desperation, he shoots her, and drives off with her car, unaware that her baby boy is asleep in the back. ďTsotsiĒ begins as a portrait of the life of a young hood headed nowhere, who happens upon this baby who somehow inspires redemption within him.

Tsotsi is a young man who is still battling with his demons of poverty, and childhood cruelty, that is forced to regain his humanity by caring for this newborn baby. He somehow, in his fits of cruelty, decides to keep the child and care for him, for better or for worse, and the consequences arenít pretty. The relationship between Tsotsi and the baby isnít played for cutesy drama, but more for this man struggling to care again, only because he fears for his own humanity. He cares for the baby, he hides it from people, and things go from bad to worse.  

Tsotsi is a cold individual who has no idea how to approach others for help when he needs it, and even attempts to give the baby away to some children, but he realizes he actually does have something left in his soul thatís worth preserving. Hood delves into Tsotsiís life from his horrible childhood, right up to his life as a criminal, and his struggles with the child and his curiosity as to what keeps us going through miserable situations, when confronted with a bitter old crippled man. ďTsotsiĒ is a surprisingly simplistic with no attempts to seem epic, and itís merely a man trying to muster up some sense of the humanity he lost in his life, and this baby becoming the catalyst.

Heís never sure if he actually loves the child, or is just keeping him because of his own trauma, but his experiences with a single mother he forces to help him care for the child make him realize he may not the cold monster heís declared as in the opening. Possibly the most disappointing aspect of ďTsotsiĒ is the criminally overlooked performance of Presley Chweneyagae as the title character who has lost his ability to live among society, and earns back much of his own soul through the child he finds himself stuck with. Hood portrays him first as an utterly inhumane killer, then an irresponsible schmuck, and then transforms into a person who realizes he didnít lose all of his sense of decency after all. Come Oscar time, Chweneyagae deserved at least a nomination.

It's not often we can experience such hatred and disgust with a central character in a film who then transforms into someone we sympathize and cry for. "Tsotsi" accomplishes this feat well with an emotionally exhausting piece of art I loved.

 

 

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