The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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‘Tsotsi’: gangs and humanity in South Africa

The movie “Tsotsi,” directed by Gavin Hood and based on the novel by Athol Fugard, is about a criminal’s redemption. It is about the transformation in a person and the faith that helped.

“Tsotsi” was an effective portrait of the effects of poverty, done so in an elegant visual and respectful story-telling manner. It showed the vulnerability inherent in all human beings, no matter how tough they act.

Orphaned at a young age, “Tsotsi,” which means thug, is a teenage gang leader trying to survive in a shantytown of Johannesburg, South Africa. The complex character, played by Presley Cheweneyagae, is a quiet, calm-mannered, gambling and killing thief, with a heart of rusty gold and a disturbing past. His gang included a large fumbling dim wit Aap, played by Kenneth Nkosi, the ruthless no nonsense killer Butcher, played by Zenzo Ngqobe, and Boston, a failed teacher played by Mothusi Magano.

The metropolitan city of South Africa displayed large bright yellow HIV/AIDS awareness campaign signs in its subway stations. They served as a reminder to the citizens of yet another subject for preoccupation of life in impoverished South Africa.

Tsotsi and his gang do their dirty work here. From silent killings on crowded subway carts, to harassing homeless paraplegics, they are cold-blooded

After a night of work, Boston, drunk and sick from the killing he just participated in, badgers Tsotsi to reveal his past and his real name. This set up an explanation for the dead end life of crime Tsotsi now lead through a series poignant flashbacks in the film.

Through extenuating circumstances, Tsotsi’s choices lead him to an infant. Tsotsi decided to care for the child in his cement hut and quickly found the responsibility too difficult. He threatened a neighbor at gunpoint to feed the baby. This recently widowed young mother Miriam, played by Terry Pheto, becomes intrigued by Tsotsi and obliges to his requests. She later persuades Tsotsi to think about his actions

From this point of the movie, Tsotsi realizes the consequences of what he has done.

In the same vein of the film “City of God”, this film portrayed the pointlessness of violence, stretched across a beautiful landscape. It told the story of good people from a real ghetto who are drawn to crime because they feel they have no other option. This film depicts violence as the inevitable by-product of poverty. But unlike the gangster movie that is “City of God”, “Tsotsi” is about a man realizing is circumstances, having hope and changing his life.

Tsotsi will be released in limited engagements in New York and Los Angeles on Feb. 24.

Yohanna Figueroa can be reached at

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