Athol Fugard has been recognized as one of the world's
greatest contemporary playwrights. Much of his work is set in his
native South Africa, yet the themes and tales are universal. His
work has appeared on stages around the world, and several of his
plays have been adapted as movies or television productions.
Fugard has also written a novel,
TSOTSI, which has served as the
basis for the strong feature film that won the 2005 Academy Award
for Best Foreign Language Film.

 Although the original novel was set during apartheid,
writer-director Gavin Hood has moved the story to the present. At
the film's outset, the title character, whose name is slang for "thug,"
is a despicable person. Tsotsi (Presley Chweneyagae) is the leader
of a gang of teens in Johannesburg. Early on, the audience watches
in horror as he and his cohorts beat a man to death during a robbery.
Tsotsi later turns his temper on one of his own gang when asked if
he can feel anything.  

 In life, a split second decision can have life altering
consequences and that's precisely what happens to Tsotsi. He
steals a car from a wealthy suburb, shooting the female driver
when she gets out to open the security gate at her home. What
he fails to realize is that the woman's infant son is in the back seat.
When he finally understands that he has kidnapped the baby, he
does something that is shocking. Instead of disposing the child,
he takes it home with him, hiding it from his gang. Tsotsi coerces a
local woman Miriam (Terry Pheto) with a baby of her own to serve
as a wet nurse for the child. Miriam comes to serve as the catalyst
for change in Tsotsi. (You will need to see the film for yourself
to find out how.)

TSOTSI is well-acted and well-meaning. If perhaps the
transformation of the central character is a little far-fetched, it is
meant to serve as a metaphor indicating that there's good in
everyone. Whether or not you can accept that will influence your
reaction to this challenging and well-made feature.

         Rating:                B+
         MPAA Rating:        R for language and
                                         some strong violent content
         Running time:       94 mins.

              Viewed at the Broadway Screening Room        
©  2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.