This traces a few days in the life of the teenage gang leader Tsotsi. When we first meet him, he and his friends are playing dice, deciding what to do that evening. And what they do is murder a man, stealing his wallet and leaving him behind on the train. One of the gang, Boston, isn’t too happy with this. He begins to drink and to talk about how they lack decency. He tries to provoke Tsotsi into revealing some sort of feeling, asking him about his real name. Tsotsi means thug, it isn’t the name his mother gave him. That doesn’t work, so Boston asks has any woman hurt him. Still no reaction. Not even a dog, he pleads in exasperation, and his provocation bears fruit, as Tsotsi punches and kicks Boston in a brutal attack before running off into the night.
As he runs we get a flashback of a young boy, a young Tsotsi fleeing through the night. And throughout the rest of the film Tsotsi’s childhood memories are intercut with the current happenings and violence. To say anymore about the plot would be to spoil some moments of the film.
There is a wonderful mixture of stillness, silence, and energy to this film. At times the camera lingers on faces, watching for a flicker of emotion. Other scenes are full of action and movement.
This is a film that does say that poverty is a driving force behind crime, but that is never allowed to become an excuse. There are other characters who are just as poor but do not react in the same way. It also never glamorises the violence, and while redemption may be at the heart of the film it never goes over the top in offering a happy ending.
This is actually one of those films you hope may have a Hollywood ending, where they can all live happily ever after, even though you know that that would render the rest of the film almost pointless.
Well worth catching, if you can, this film also won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film