Gavin Hood, 2005, UK/South Africa (94 mins)
Presley Chweneyagae, Terry Pheto, Rapulana Seiphemo
Set in a Soweto shantytown, a crew of small time gangsters scrape by, pulling in money from violent muggings. Then a nasty car robbery shakes the film's momentum, as Tsotsi discovers a gurgling baby in the back seat. The child sets Tsotsi on a dangerous journey, tussling with the discovery of a conscience.
The film is harsh. And brave too. For the first twenty minutes Tsotsi is so unsympathetic that it’s tempting to give up and leave the cinema. But dim rays of light emerge, illuminating his character and circumstance. The light grows through superb performances from Pheto as Miriam, a dignified single mother and Chweneyagae, compelling as the desperate lead.
Everything is played for unflattering honesty and the film constantly avoids straying into sentimental territory. Faced with the conundrum of how bleak a picture to paint at the end, director Hood leaves audiences with both an imprint of violence and the possibility of redemption. Kate Taylor