«Tsotsi» is a South African criminal drama directed by Gavin Hood made in 2006. Living as a victim of apartheid, the main character is a street criminal who constantly resolves problems with violence. In the beginning, Tsotsi accidentally kidnaps a baby while stealing a car from a woman and shooting her. For some reasons, the baby is very important throughout the film.
The film is set in a township called Soweto, near Johannesburg in South Africa. There are strong contrasts between the modern South-Africa and the townships. As we notice in the film, not much had changed since the apartheid system came to end in the early 1990s. The townships are still very poor and unreformed, also quite similar to American ghettos.
Tsotsi is the leader of a gang which consists of three other bandits; Aap, Boston and Butcher. His real name is David, but he calls himself “Tsotsi” which means “thug”. When he joined the gang, he did not have to remind himself of the past. Therefore, he changed his name, as he never had to be David again. From that moment on, he put on a mask to cover his wounded identity.
The film is structured chronologically, including some flashbacks to the past. Through flashbacks, we get to know his past and it is revealed that Tsotsi had a rough childhood. He experienced violence at home, by his alcoholic father, and his mother suffered from AIDS.
When he found the baby in the backseat of the car, he could not kill him. He got flashbacks of memories from his childhood, and it reminded him of his mother. Tsotsi did not want to abandon the baby, because he remembered when he was abandoned himself. Instead, he took care of him as if it was his own.
Throughout the movie, we learn that everyone has kindness deep inside. Even though we did not expect Tsotsi to be kind, the baby actually made him act differently. It exposed factors and feelings inside him, which determined him to be a more caring man, or even a father. The baby might symbolize a new life, or a new beginning. It means that the baby made Tsotsi take a step to change his life and take off the mask.
There are a lot of allusions in the movie related to Christianity. In the last scene, Tsotsi stands with his hands in the air, which may seem like he is praising God. Moreover, some of the names used in the movie, such as “Zachariah” or “David”, have a relation to the Bible. Finally, Tsotsi realizes his mistakes and wants to attain redemption from his sins.
All things considered, this is a movie I would surely recommend to people interested in crime or drama movies. If you are looking for more knowledge about contemporary social issues and conditions in the English-speaking countries, this is undoubtedly a movie for you.