Film review of the movie Tsotsi by Gavin Hood

Film review of the movie Tsotsi by Gavin Hood

Hood’s thesis is that there are disparities between poverty and wealth, and this has an impact to the society at the backdrop of many people having robbed their childhood. This is a film concerning choice and opportunity. It is a film that comprises various tensions  that  are not only based  on the country’s contemporary social environment, but also has its relations to  Athol  Fugard’s  novel and is dominated by the  soundtrack of  Kwaito of  Zola.  The film thesis indicates that despite the effect of technology in bring modernization; it has not managed to bring wealth to the South African populations. Instead, it has reaped them of their power and robbed them a means of being part of negotiating in terms of social-cultural and politico- economic terms with other countries of the North. The ability of the protagonists to surrender him to the authorities after engaging in a series of crimes indicates that he is confessions to his transgressions. This brings triumph to his spirit thus, making him to autonomously rehabilitate from crime. The message is that despite the struggles to survive in posts apartheid South Africa, there is still hoping for redemption.

Hood in this film makes use of a wide range of symbolic aspects to support his conclusion.    The whole film places emphasis and presents a wide range of ideas. It is a story of Tsotsi a young man, whose name means a Thug in English.  He leads a criminal life in the city of Johannesburg, South Africa.  The film is depicted just a few days before the character embraces a new life. We get to undetached the struggles that modern day South Africans go through after being mistreated under the era of apartheid. Various symbolic aspects are shown such as wasteland locations and dice. They present the idea of chance and luck, as well as, the need to be hopeful for it is a journey towards redemption. At the start of the film, the dice is shown when one is closing hands to shake the dice in the Craps game. This game act as a symbol that just like the game, life too is full of chances especially for people like Tsotsi who live in the slums. The protagonist’s life is part of a gamble by itself for he engages in criminal acts and faces high chances of being caught by the police or shot dead.  The kidnapping of the baby also acts as a symbol. It is also part of a gamble whereby a simple act of stealing a motor vehicle also leads to kidnapping, the baby at the same time stands as a symbol of Tsotsi redemption and hope for the future. He feels guilty for having stolen the baby and this marks his start for love and affection towards other human beings.

The main contributor of the film is the author of the book Athol Fugard. He has made the   mainstream of this film to be in the western style in which the author presents his story in a linear design.The primary intention of the screen play is to present a well-paced, taut and character driven thriller that is psychologically based.  Through the imaging, we are presented with well organized information that transports the audience into different and radical contrasts. We get images of poverty, wealth, shacks and skyscraper, as well as, gentle compassion and violent anger. All these aspects collide in the film’s story to present a classical redemption story.  This redemption story is per the standard convention of Hollywood.

This makes the film’s story have a convenient device for portraying the sympathetic characters. The narrative is also characterized by western elements in that it is a linear and simple way of narration. The film uses flashbacks and is signified simply with the intention of not causing confusion in the structure of narration.  The costumes do help in showing the setting and theme of the story. We get the story of Tsotsi in a linear style as one event leads to another. This is because Tsotsi thinks of his life as being in a straight line and not deviating  one as seen  in the one he had taken earlier by following the  beggar from one station to  another. The main concern of the director is show the journey that one takes in finally founding a new kind of decency and redemption. The protagonist is not a good role model, he commits    crimes and even regrets for having committed them. He acts as the predictor waiting to devour the innocent and vulnerable ones. However in the end he manages to attain his decency and redemption.

The narrator uses cinematic techniques by presenting localized themes. This shows that the film was produced with evidence and factual information that shape the culture of the people. The original story of this film was set towards the end of the 1950’s. This was the time in South Africa when injustice of the apartheid system was at its peak. The film’s story is, however, set in the post -apartheid period. This enables the director to present the modern Tsotsi with a voice to represent the common aspects facing many young people especially the black in the world.  The film has generally managed to present a history of the South African population. This film has adopted a lot form other scholarly materials. For instance, it has adopted the   work of Fugard in his post apartheid themes, but unlike him Hood has not concentrated on   the theme of politics. There is also an adaptation of the Russian text by Dostoyevsky’s’ Crime and Punishment that shows   the protagonists mind set. This means that the theory of psychoanalysis can be applied to the two protagonists Raskolnikov and Tsotsi.


Hood, Gavin 2006 Tsotsi USA. Miramax Films

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