Tsotsi is a film that traces six days in the life of a young man who lives in the ghetto, trying to survive the problems that comes along with being poverty stricken, in a gang and wanting more out of life. It’s a film where humanity is rediscovered even through the worst circumstances… When a tsotsi accidentally kidnaps a baby when he hijacks a car, he comes face to face with having to change his ways, if only for a while, as he takes care of this child. Through doing this he realises he is able to love, that although the darkness surrounds him more often than not, there’s more to him than just that.
The word “tsotsi” means a black urban criminal, a street thug or gang member in the vernacular of black townships in South Africa. Its origin is possibly a corruption of the Sesotho word “tsotsa” meaning to dress flashily, zoot suits being originally associated with tsotsis. The film itself takes this definition and shows that in the end “the feathers doesn’t make the bird”, which is something that South African poverty-stricken children often forget. The term “having swag” – which is more American than South African – plays a big role in the film as well, but where some kids thought it was a joke in some suburban area, it is very much a reality in the hoodlum areas where it’s a day to day struggle just to eat. Tsotsi plays on the viewers’ emotions by showing a harsh reality and then a glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel, which may have very well been the reason that this Proudly South African film won the Academy Award for the Best Foreign Film in 2006.
Based on the book by the acclaimed author, Athol Fugard, Tsotsi gave international audiences an inside look into the world of the underdog and how he finds meaning in this crazy world. It takes a helpless child to make him realise he can change his ways, and still… so many things plays against him. The film also stars Zola, Terry Pheto, Kenneth Nkosi, Ian Roberts, Rapulana Seiphemo and Presley Cheneyagae.
In university, I had a film and media class that used this film to not only show the cinematic genius, how important a well-thought out plot is and the importance of meaning in a flick, but there was something else that spoke louder to me on a personal level. Here, in South Africa, we have advantages and disadvantages just like the rest of the world, however the lack of education, a tainted past and poverty pushes people to try and survive no matter what…
Without giving too much away though, audiences can purchase their copy of Tsotsi by clicking on the image. There’s a reason why Tsotsi won that Academy Award in 2006… You definitely want to see why.