Tsotsi – Oscar for best foreign language
A great moment in the history of South African film! Tsotsi, a film about a thug in Johannesburg,
was awarded the Oscar for best foreign language film at the Academy Awards on Sunday 5 March 2005.
The film is based on a novel authored by Athol Fugard. The director, Gavin Hood, modernized the story
and the main character was made to have grown-up as an Aids orphan.
Tsotsi tells the gritty story of Tsotsi (meaning “thug”), played by Presley Chewenyagae, and his dealings
with a criminal gang in Johannesburg. He is unaffected by the world of violence in which he finds himself –
stabbing people for money and picking fights with homeless, wheelchair bound men. However, everything changes
when he shoots a woman and steals her car. Soon he discovers a baby in the back seat. The baby begins to revive
Tsotsis capacity for empathy as he tries to feed it and care for it. Presley Chewenyagae beautifully portrays
the struggle between Tsotsis callous exterior and the wounded man inside.
Director Gavin Hood says the aim of Tsotsi is to tell a tale of universal morality. Although a life-affirming
story, sentimentality is avoided. It is a harsh world in which Tsotsi lives and this is portrayed in cruel
reality. This is clearly seen in the emotionally wrought scene where Tsotsi visits his childhood home, which
is a stack of abandoned cement pipes just outside the township. It is a place where many homeless children
spend their nights.
Tsotsis nomination is the second time South Africa has been nominated for an Academy Award. The first nomination
was for the film “Yesterday” which was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film in 2004.
Gavin Hood accepted the award with the words “God bless Africa”. Tsotsi has proved to all that South African film
has what it takes to reach the top.