December, 2005, Drama

Directed by:Gavin Hood

Starring:Presley Chweneyagae

Alas, good intentions and earnestness of purpose do not a good movie make. South African Director Gavin Hood also wrote the script for this film, adapting a novel by Athol Fugard. (The title’s a slang word in the vernacular of South Africa’s slum neighborhoods which means street thug or gang member.) Tsotsi involves a carjacking which triggers the unintentional kidnapping of a baby sleeping in its back seat. 

While the film’s images of ghetto life in post-apartheid South Africa are impressively authentic, the script grows unbelievable in each successive scene until it reaches a thoroughly predictable climax. Overlong even at 94 minutes of running time, Tsotsi manages to be well-intentioned, but rather amateurish in design and simplistic in execution. A cast of unknown actors struggles to make more of the screenplay than its lines have to offer and the pacing’s sluggish. 

Yet it’s easy to understand why the South African government chose this movie as its candidate for consideration as the best foreign film in this year’s Oscar competition. It treats an important subject - - the alienation of that country’s black young people - - in a politically correct manner. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t do a very competent job of it.


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