Director: Gavin Hood
“Chweneyagae and Pheto give remarkable performances in a film that powerfully conveys the brutality and squalor of the urban slums of Johannesburg – while maintaining a strong belief in the human spirit, which resists being crushed under the oppressive weight of poverty.” (905, Edward Buscombe, 1001 Movie You Must See Before You Die)
Every time I watch a film like Tsotsi or City of God (2002, Fernando Meirelles & Katia Lund) or even Slumdog Millionaire (2008, Danny Boyle) I’m forcibly reminded that there are still people living in abject poverty in brutal locations around the world. At the same time films like these make me take stock not only of the world at large but also everything I am incredibly lucky to have in my life that more often than not I take for granted.
As always when watching a foreign language film I found it took me a while longer before my ears clicked into the language at which point the film flowed more naturally. It’s a curious language – one that seems to be a mish-mash of languages – with bits of English occasionally appearing. It’s quite pleasant to listen to which is sometimes at odds with the violence surrounding, and yes carried out by, Tsotsi.
“At last, having failed to defend himself to Miriam, Tsotsi is forced to confront the nature of his life and the direction it is taking.” (905)
The driving force of the narrative comes from a botched carjacking in which Tsotsi inadvertently kidnaps a baby. Over the course of the next 6 days we witness something remarkable – the transformation of a self-titled thug (Tsotsi) as he rediscovers his humanity.
“If at times the direction seems overly theatrical – with heavy pauses while we absorb the significance of a scene – this is a small price to pay for the film’s powerful insights.” (905)
I found his interaction with a paralyzed man the turning point. He initially intends to take the man’s money by force (as usual up to this point) and instead goes on to reveal part of himself, through his story of an abused dog … one we later witness with some incredible and heart-wrenching acting from said dog.