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Film / Tsotsi

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Tsotsi is a 2005 South African drama film directed by Gavin Hood.

Set in a Soweto slum, near Johannesburg, Presley Chweneyagae plays the eponymous Tsotsi. Originally known as David, Tsotsi's mother died of a terminal illness during his childhood and he ran away from his abusive father. Adopting his present name (which means "street thug" or "gang member" in the vernacular of black South African low class urban areas), he is now a small-time criminal with two hoodlums, Butcher (Zenzo Ngqobe) and Aap (Kenneth Nkosi) under his wing. He has groomed himself to focus exclusively on his own survival; feeling no remorse for the acts he commits. His life is turned upside down, however, when one night, after shooting a woman to steal her car, he finds a baby, the woman's son, in the back seat...

Won the 2005 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. One of only two films from the entire continent of Africa to win the Oscar, the other being Black and White in Color.

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This film provides examples of:

  • And Then What?: Miriam tears into Tsotsi's long-term plans for the child as poorly thought out and selfish.
  • Anti-Hero: Tsotsi. A thief and a gangster, but determined to protect his new ward at any cost, including forcing a woman at gunpoint to help care for the baby.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: Tsotsi is arrested by the police after returning the baby, his final fate left unclear.
  • Children Raise You: Tsotsi was set on living a life of crime and brutality, only for the child to force him to take on a caring role.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Tsotsi gradually changes from an immoral criminal to a man willing to risk his own freedom for the sake of returning the child to his rightful parents.
  • Kick the Dog: Tsotsi's father breaks his dog's neck.
  • Morality Pet: The baby. Tsotsi's lost empathy only emerges around the child. Miriam also slowly becomes this to Tsotsi, urging him to raise the child morally.
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  • Protagonist Title: A story about Tsotsi.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Once he realizes Tsotsi's genuinely trying to return his child, John Dube forces the police to lower their weapons and allow him to peacefully surrender.
  • Revised Ending: Two alternate endings were filmed, one where Tsotsi is shot dead by the police and another where he is still shot, but escapes. Because both endings were extremes on the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, Hood decided to Take a Third Option by using neither.
  • Setting Update: The original novel was written in the 1970s. Rather than making a period piece, Gavin Hood chose to set it in the present day.
  • Sink-or-Swim Fatherhood: Unusually for this trope, hilarity does not ensue.
  • Unintentionally Notorious Crime: Tsotsi wounds a woman and steals her car, but was not expecting the baby in the backseat.


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