Tsotsi (Gavin Hood, 2005)

What's it about? Tsotsi (Presley Chweneyagae) is a young delinquent living a life of crime in the shanty towns of Johannesburg. When he finds a baby in the back seat of a car he has stolen, it stirs up repressed memories of his own childhood.

Is it any good? The main reason to see this is the superb central performance from first-time actor and splendidly-named Chweneyagae as the dangerous street thug who starts to show a flicker of compassion and his magnetic performance gives weight to an otherwise routine story of redemption-in-unlikely-places. Parents of young children may note cynically that Tsotsi is also lucky to kidnap a remarkably well-behaved baby! However, although the story offers nothing particularly new, there are some convincingly gritty elements in the portrayal of life in the South African townships and a distinctive soundtrack comprised mostly of Kwaito house music.

Anything else I should know? The language spoken by the actors is "tsotsitaal", a street language amalgam of Afrikaans, English, Zulu, Sotho and Tswana, which caused a few breakdowns in communication during filming. The word 'Tsotsi' itself, means 'thug'. The film was held up as an example of the burgeoning film industry in South Africa and went on to garner international success and an Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 2006. You can read an interview with Chweneyagae here, in which he reveals how his own childhood and experience of the townships informed the role.

What does the Fonz think? Presley will leave you all shook up.

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