Tsotsi (the word for “gangster” in South African Soweto) is change personified. Mapping a young man’s transformational moment, jolted by an infant, is the most complete emancipation from sin’s shackles ever put to film. Based on Athol Fugard’s novel, directed by Gavin Hood, Tsotsi follows a brief period brilliantly played by Presley Chweneyagae from hardened, small-time criminal to humbled, contrite repentant. Difficult to watch in places—emotionally charged scenes include murder, beating, child-abandonment, and the lifestyle of hoodlums in their ramshackle surroundings—the viewer is treated to a riveting, incarnational performance of conversion. Strong emphasis on environmental influences that contribute to one’s persona are explored. Repentance and the revival of latent human dignity slowly bubble to the surface in the life of one renovated from the inside, out. From steel-set jawline of a shantytown criminal to blubbering baby captured by the trauma of his own childhood, Chweneyagae’s performance literally shows that surrender of one’s soul to righteousness brings redemption. Pivotal to the drama is the title of the film: what is the importance of a name? Among many sub-texts, the moviegoer must leave the film experience compelled to revisit one’s familial past and its impact on both present and future decisions. Winner of the 2006 Oscar for Best Foreign Film, Tsotsi is a valuable addition to a growing list of independent movies that Christians should celebrate for the display of extra-biblical truth.
Subtitled. Rated R for language, violence, kidnapping, drug use, and very brief nudity (a mother breastfeeding a child).