773 views 0 comments

Heroes of the Zeroes: Tsotsi

by on November 7, 2010
Editor Rating
Total Yaps


Hover To Rate
User Rating
Total Yaps


You have rated this


Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.

Rated R

On its face, 2005’s “Tsotsi” sounded like a South African trap of after-school sap — a baby-faced teenage gangbanger softening after he takes a baby into his care.

Writer-director Gavin Hood easily could’ve stripped down Athol Fugard’s novel of personal responsibility and cultural empathy into a Hallmark-esque distillation of “City of God.” Instead, Hood retained this redemption song’s minor key — bullets, blood and beatings meant to illustrate a descent into dangerous living.

Using his slang name for “thug” as a shield, Tsotsi (Presley Chweneyagae) is inwardly troubled by a homicide his gang has committed. Tsotsi’s hesitancy suggests he’s not fully hardened, and after unknowingly stealing a car with a baby in the backseat, he encounters further obstacles in surrendering to gang life.

This Oscar winner for Best Foreign-Language Film takes a journey more social than sentimental, although it’s hard to not hope Tsotsi will regain compassion chased out of him as a child.

Tsotsi is slow to comprehend the toddler’s comforts, but the baby reminds him he is still a child and that he’s headed down a path from which he fled in fright as a boy — to shantytown shacks that seemed a great place to forget troubles, but emboldened bad behavior.

Hood correctly approaches this as shock-therapy treatment for Tsotsi’s seeming senselessness. As he realizes he’s not long for this baby and plans its return, “Tsotsi” becomes a plea to retain parenthood’s passion and a powerful endorsement of compassion and amnesty in a culture where both are in short supply.