Oscar winning film ‘Tsotsi’ directed by Gavin Hood is a compelling story of a small time criminal. The film is an adaption based on the 1960 novel by Athol Fugard. ‘Tsotsi’ is a teenager hardened by a tough life in the shanty town of Soweto, South Africa.
After a series of violent gang hits, Tsotsi shoots a woman, hijacks her car and startled by a noise in the backseat, crashes it. After realizing he had stolen someone’s baby, for reasons unknown he decides to take the baby with him, carrying it to his house in the slums where the next six days bring about a change that could never be foreseen. Fatherhood is not a role that suits him well, so he follows a young mother named Miriam (Terry Pheto) and holds her at gunpoint until she nurses the abducted child. After a series of visits, he develops feelings for Miriam and eventually she convinces him to return the infant. In the end, he holds the baby in his arms in front of the biological parents while surrounded by police officers. Instead of running from his crimes as he usually does, he returns the baby and surrenders.
A successful narrative must contain a beginning, middle and end. The modern dramatic structure adopts this theory, yet more specifically the beginning must contain exposition and conflict, rising action and climax in the middle and finally falling action and a resolution at the end. Tsotsi follows this key structure efficiently as Hood reveals the illegal exposition of Tsotsi’s life in the beginning of the film where we are revealed his initial gangster nature in his conflicted life as he murders an innocent man for his wallet within the first 10 minutes of the film. The middle containing rising action is him adopting the cherub/attempting parenthood and the climax is him bidding to return the baby whilst surrounded by the police. The falling action is him handing over the baby and the resolution is Tsotsi surrendering himself, this is due to moralistic views as every consequence must pay the price. Although Tsotsi redeemed himself at the end, he is still a criminal.
Tsotsi is a film therefore it is a non-interactive linear narrative meaning the story is continuous and the audience has no control over the order of events; they are forced to watch from beginning to end. Majority of the film uses third person storytelling, this is effective in the sense it creates a bond with the audience and the protagonist ‘Tsotsi’. We are forced by storyteller Gavin Hood to grow with Tsotsi on his journey of redemption. The film grasps a personal approach with theoretical content that hits emotions deep when Tsotsi kills multiple people including his ‘friends’, mistreating the disabled and stealing a child from its mother. The whole film is scripted in the authentic South African language therefore visually we cannot help but to create metaphors for aspects of the film in order to understand the story as we cannot rely on foreign dialogue. For example the stolen child acts as a catalyst for Tsotsi in order for him to regain his humanity. These elements combined create an effective narrative for the story object. Tsotsi is an extreme example of an antihero.
Tsotsi comments on the Modern South African society. I chose this story object because Hood mimics and reveals the huge contrasts within South Africa such as affluence and poverty alongside the disease, addiction and crime which destroys so many lives. We live by a similar lifestyle here in New Zealand; South Auckland against Central Auckland. Hood states, “There are millions of Tsotsi’s growing up all over the world haunted by the damage inflicted on them in childhood and acting out their resentments.” Tsotsi is a relatable character which represents many others, such as me, who may have come from harsh backgrounds thinking there is no chance at redemption. While the film demonstrates genuine sympathy for South Africa’s victims of poverty, we as the audience do not come away from the film with any sense that the townships produced not only criminal elements, but also brave and heroic fighters against those conditions. Overall it is a moving yet heartbreaking film.