tsotsi won the oscar for best foreign language film in 2006. it definitely packed a serious punch and deserved all the awards it won. tsotsi is the name of its central character who is a criminal teenager. in one of his unlawful escapades, tsotsi hijacked a car and fatally shoots the woman driver. on his way to dispose of his loot, he finds a baby on the back seat, brings the baby home and soon bonded with him. he chose miriam, a young mother to help him take care of the baby. the presence of the baby transformed his behavior, from that of a street hooligan to a caring, somewhat a foster father to the baby.
one may find tsotsi another sampling of poverty porn ala pinoy indies since it highlighted soweto’s (johannesburg’s biggest slum) squalor and the city’s underbelly. but what is effective in this one is that the setting only provided a backdrop to a truly compelling story – human beings no matter how big a predator they’ve become, they still have that loving side to them and are capable of caring for another human being. tsotsi may have chosen a life of crime due to his life experiences (his mother died of AIDS and his father was cruel to him), the infant set off a change in his demeanor and he discovered that tender side of him.
it may be a bit hard to watch because of the in-your-face violence. but its realist take didn’t feel contrived at all and may be due to the director’s choice to tap non-actors to tell the story. presley chweneyagae as tsotsi was phenomenal, as was the mathusi magano as boston and terry pheto as miriam. its accompanying music also worked well in intensifying the “low life” urban criminal mood of the film.
intense and powerful, tsotsi is a must-watch.