Tsotsi (2005)


Crime | Drama


Gavin Hood


UK | South Africa


Presley Chweneyagae, Mothusi Magano, Kenneth Nkosi, Zenzo Ngqobe, Jerry Mofokeng, Terry Pheto, Nambitha Mpumlwana, Rapulana Seiphemo, Ian Roberts, Thembi Nyandeni, Israel Makoe


After a series of violent hits, Tsotsi (Presley Chweneyagae), the tough leader of a gang, hijacks a car but there's a baby on the back seat, and he brings him to his house. The next six days bring a change in him.


Frankly, I didn't know what to expect from this film. I didn't see any (South) African movies before, and the only Gavin Hood's film I saw, "X-Men Origins: Wolverine", wasn't great. But since I was immediately struck by the gaze of its lead, I ended up watching it. And I'm glad I did because "Tsotsi" is a brilliant, intense and sweet film about redemption.

Adapted from Athol Fugard's novel, the story is extremely engaging and powerful. It may be the typical story of a hard life of the criminal underclass, and it may have a typical ending for films of this genre, but it's heartfelt and moving, without being cheesy.

The main reason why "Tsotsi" is different is its leading character. Probably I should have said the incredible job Gavin Hood did, as a director, but especially as a writer. He takes all the time he need to build David's character through the film, laying his backstory gradually so that by the end of the film we are on the side of a character we weren't supposed to like but that eventually we end up really caring about.

The other characters are interesting as well, as they are a combination of philosophers and thugs, speaking in their native language and some English. Also, each character is beautifully defined by the surroundings.

The other great thing about this film is the cinematography. Simply stunning. Everything is captured to perfection, from the actors' expressions to the landscapes, to a beautiful yet disgraced Johannesburg.

And finally there's the acting. Once again kudos to Hood for directing all these actors, most of which didn't have any experience. He does get great performances from the entire cast, but the real gem is Presley Chweneyagae as David. He isn't perfect but he is so expressive, and manages to appear (and be believable) both as a tough young man and as an almost angelic one.


  1. I liked this one too. I was a little baffled by the lead character at times, but the film works overall. Great review!

    1. Thanks! I wasn't expecting to like this one this much.