Wednesday, February 27, 2008


I think it is interesting that this South African movie with critical acclaim and international recognition, is based on a type of plot that is so often used in big budget mainstream Hollywood movies – the Gangster story. Brooding, introverted and troubled gang leader, loyal friends that act as an comic relief that has no real relief to offer. The opposing gang, the gang member that pushes and provokes the alpha male on the gang until he is beat up and kicked out of the gangs or leaves it. These are all reoccurring themes that all can also be found in common American, Western films of this genre.

Nevertheless, Tsotsi is no conventional Western Gangster format. This is partly because of the soundtrack. The African rhythms and language infuse the Hip Hop and give a special touch to at least from the perspective of a Westerner used to American Gangster movies and American Gangsta Rap.

I think this movie by Gavin Hood achieves two things: On the one hand, it is a wonderful study of the character of the protagonist David “Tsotsi”, played by Presley Chweneyagae. Especially in his development after the accidental kidnapping of the infant. This responsibility of taking care of the child almost cracks the hard shell of this hard and brutal emotionally detached man. It's at the same time humorous, heart-wrenching and crass to see how he at first uses the tools he knows – brutality and crime – to care for the baby. Breaking into the mother's home to steal baby stuff, getting a young woman to breast feed the baby at gunpoint. Surely at first he only keeps the baby in order not to be caught, but he grows to like an love the baby and only heavy heartedly can give it back to the parents. But this personal story is not the only main theme.

I think, without knowing the country myself, this movie portrays the situation in South Africa today without glorifying or ridiculing any side or aspect. Life in townships is contrasted to more affluent parts of town. I think it's very significant that the rich parents are also black, clearly showing that the harshest divide in South African society at the moment is between rich and poor, not so much between black and white. The mixed couple of Police detectives add to this impression. The brutality is neither glorified nor overly morally condemned from above, but shown in its horrifying, self-explanatory fashion.

The almost complete speechlessness of the main character contrasts interestingly to the hectic, loud and a times even joyful surroundings. This paints a pretty complex picture that is both specific and universal.


  1. Ist dir dein deutscher Wortschatz verlustig gegangen?

  2. tja...
    das hab ich vom chronologisch lesen.
    man ignoriere meinen vorigen Kommentar ;-)