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In Johannesburg, a small time criminal, Tsotsi, is a teenager without feelings, hardened by his tough life. After a series of violent gang hits, Tsotsi hijacks a car. However, whilst driving, Tsotsi finds that there is a baby on the back seat. He brings the baby to his house in the slum. The next six days bring about a change in him that couldn't be foreseen. Written by
based on the review by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
I saw this film on January 19th, 2006 in Indianapolis. I am one of the judges for the Heartland Film Festival that screens films for their Truly Moving Picture Award. A Truly Moving Picture " explores the human journey by artistically expressing hope and respect for the positive values of life." Heartland gave that award to this film.
Tsotsi is a leader of an informal black criminal gang in South Africa. They are simply awful and inhuman and cruel and uncaring. We may understand why they act this way as we see the segregated black slums they live in, and, through flashbacks, their orphan-like upbringing, but you can't bring yourself to forgive them for what they have become. They are some of the worst thugs of the earth.
And then, a tipping point moment comes to the leader Tsotsi. As he commits a car theft from a wealthy neighborhood, he unknowingly kidnaps a baby. He can't bring himself to let the baby die.
Tsotsi clumsily attends to the baby in his small, tin can slum house. He becomes a hybrid human; that is, half good and half evil.
The drama of the film is the tension of not knowing how he will turn out. And he surely can go either way. His gang of friends are a noticeable contrast to where Tsotsi's head and morality is. They are pure evil.
The movie is sub-titled but there is not much dialog among these uneducated almost simpleminded underclass of young men. The powerful impact on the screen is created by the sordid environment and the realism in the facial expressions of the gang. The film is also driven cleverly by the African hip-hop like music.
The film looks at the question whether the worst of our humans on earth can change and tip back into being civilized.
FYI There is a Truly Moving Pictures web site where there is a listing of past Truly Moving Picture Award winners that are now either at the theater or available on video.
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