Tsotsi (Presley Chweneyagae), a young South African hoodlum steals a car after shooting its female driver but finds her baby on the back seat. His paternal and criminal instincts battle it out as he is forced to care for needy infant whilst finding a living in Soweto’s violent underworld.
“Tsotsi couldn’t be in any way accused of glamourising its setting. It’s an effective, sincere film made with – although you wish the script hadn’t stressed the word quite so much – decency.” The Independent.
“This is a universal and powerful story that’s shot in vivid widescreen and carries a restless sense of energy thanks to the sharp visuals and a pulsating soundtrack of ethnic ‘Kwailto’ music.” Channel Four Film Review.
Tsotsi (shot in Tsotsi-Taal, an exotic mix of English, Afrikaans and several tribal dialects) won this year’s Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film which usually goes to Hollywood’s idea of a nice feel-good drama made by unthreatening foreign folk. Tsotsi could have been just that with its storyline about a thug who finds some kind of redemption in a South African township after being literally left holding the baby. Gavin Hood successfully avoids sentimentality in a film that shows Soweto on an epic scale with vivid wide-angle photography shot through acidic yellow and pink filters that create an almost Biblical feel to the landscapes with a cool, in-yer-face Kwaito soundtrack, Johannesburg’s take on American House Music and Rap. Untrained 19-year-old Presley Chweneyagae, in his first film, impressively carries the weight of the story, which shows, with unblinking honesty, the effects of brutality as well as its possible causes.. The best-supporting actor award should have gone to the stolen baby (in reality a set of twins) who cries and gurgles to order and survives, we hope, various ordeals with a tin of evaporated milk, a swarm of flies and a hastily prepared newspaper nappy. Best of all are the scenes where Tsotsi forces the beautiful young widow Miriam (Terry Pheto) to breastfeed at gunpoint only to find that her powerful humanity is mightier than the bullet.