IMDb wrote: Tsotsi (2005)
Director: Gavin Hood
Genre: Crime / Drama
TagLine: In this world... redemption just comes once.
Runtime: Canada:94 min (Toronto International Film Festival) / USA:94 min
Country: UK / South Africa
Language: Zulu / Xhosa / Afrikaans
Color: Color (Kodak)
SoundMix: Dolby Digital
Certification: Ireland:15A / Netherlands:12 / UK:15 / Finland:K-15 / Switzerland:14 (canton of Geneva) / Spain:13 / Germany:12 / Australia:M / USA:R / Switzerland:14 (canton of Vaud) / Sweden:15
Presley Chweneyagae .... Tsotsi
Mothusi Magano .... Boston
Israel Makoe .... Tsotsi's father
Percy Matsemela .... Sergeant Zuma
Jerry Mofokeng .... Morris
Benny Moshe .... Young Tsotsi
Nambitha Mpumlwana .... Pumla Dube
Jeremiah Ndlovu .... Old Man at the Tap
Zenzo Ngqobe .... Butcher
Kenneth Nkosi .... Aap
Thembi Nyandeni .... Soekie
Terry Pheto .... Miriam
Ian Roberts .... Captain Smit
Rapulana Seiphemo .... John Dube
Owen Sejake .... Gumboot Dlamini
Zola .... Fela
Tsotsi takes place in huge shantytown in Johannesburg, South Africa. There lives Tsotsi (Presley Chweneyagae), a 19 years old boy who lives in a violent present with no real future in his horizon and a past he has erased till his own "real" name.
Indeed "Tsotsi" is a surname he has chosen. The "tsotsi" were the flaming gangsters of the 1950's. Nowadays it means "thug" or "mobster" in the tsotsi-taal, the South African ghettos' slang used in the movie.
Tsotsi is the leader of a little gang involving :
- - Aap (Kenneth Nkosi), big and strong, not very clever but always ready to follow his long time friend,
- Butcher (Zenzo Ngqobe), a very impulsive and violent handyman who kills easily, without any remorses and even with a certain pleasure in it,
- and Boston (Mothusi Magano, already seen in Hotel Rwanda), the most cultivate of the band, he is very reluctant regarding violence and suffer from a serious alcohol problem which drove him in the ghetto after having failed his exams to become a school teacher.
Speaking too much while he's getting drunk, Boston makes Tsotsi literally explodes violently. Tsotsi jumps on Boston and works him over before running far from them.
His feet drive him in a rich neighborhood where he sees a woman getting down her BMW to call for someone to open the gate. Reacting instinctively to the situation, Tsotsi takes his revolver and steals the car, shooting the woman who tries to interfere.
A baby suddenly making himself heard from the backseat will change many things in Tsotsi's life, making him do choice he wouldn't even have thought about before and offering him a path to redemption...
As you can guess it from the little introduction you've just read, the plot of Tsotsi is very classic and quite universal. One of these plots which can take place anywhere, but the place where it takes in here is definitely not ordinary.
Through this story director Gavin Hood offers us, through a not so classic direction, a journey in modern Johannesburg where townships rub elbows with high-tech skyscrapers, a place where anger can easily blacken the souls and hearts, making violence common while decency falls in oblivion. Through the character of Boston, the movie insists several times on this word, "decency".
Indeed at the beginning of the movie, Tsotsi and his pack appear more as dangerous wolves (no pun intended to WSC ) than men. Their water-point is the train station where they carefully analyzing all people around, patiently choosing their prey before hunting it and murder it if it appears necessary, without any remorse nor even "consideration" of the act itself.
If the movie is full of "good feelings", as a friend was insisting on after the showing, the beginning of Tsotsi is not at all "Disney-like", quite the contrary.
This inside evolution of Tsotsi is very well rendered through Gavin Hood's image with the choice of a grainy picture, perfect for both landscapes and closeups on the characters. And there comes the major point of the movie who is the brilliant performance of Presley Chweneyagae.
The rest of the casting is very good as well but Presley Chweneyagae is nothing else but amazing of charisma and presence on the screen. So many unsaid ideas pass through his eyes that I was not at all surprised to read after that in South Africa he had become a super-star, often compared to James Dean himself (and believe me, you have to see this movie before raising your shields ) !
Another actor who is very important in Tsotsi is the soundtrack which contributes so much to the immersion of the audience and more. As I'm typing this, I'm listening to the three songs available on the french official website of the movie in loop mode (to hear them, click on "musique" on the bottom bar and then look for the three play buttons ).
Most of the songs are performed by Bonginkosi Dlamini aka Zola (who also plays Fela in the movie), the proclaimed king of Kwaito, the modern music of South-African townships and personally I discover I'm a fan !
I was already expecting a good movie and I've not at all disappointed. True I was awaiting a polar a little bit more "subtile" than this classic plot but Tsotsi has offered me a journey I've particularly enjoyed in South Africa and as it also represented a great ambassador for post-Apartheid South-African cinema, I mark it with a very well deserved 5/6.
I hope to see more South-African movies like that reaching our screens in the future !!