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Tsotsi – TAP’s Movie of the Month for November 2014

November 14, 2014

tsotsi_ver4One of my all-time favorite poets, Emily Dickinson, once wrote, “There is no frigate like a book to take us lands away, nor any coursers like a page of prancing poetry.”

In modern English, what she was saying was that no boat (or plane, train, or automobile) is quite as good as a book when it comes to taking us to faraway lands. Nor is a fast horse nearly as effective as a page of poetry to transport our minds to other places.

It may be somewhat blasphemous for an English teacher who travels with students to say this, but sometimes I think a movie can be just as powerful. Of course, there’s nothing quite like going someplace new and experiencing different cultures, meeting unique people, and trying new things. However, sometimes it’s not possible to really get inside and fully understand that new place – sometimes a book, a poem, or even a movie allows us to live in someone else’s skin for a while and see what that place is like if it isn’t different, unique, or new. Sometimes literature and film allow us to see the world the way people on the other side live their lives.

Tsotsi is one of those movies. We can see Soweto. We can tour Johannesburg. We can listen to music. We can hear foreign languages. We can eat weird food. No matter what, though, we’ll never really know what it’s like to live there, to be there for your whole life, to have no hope of ever moving upward. Tsotsi, however, allows us to live for a few hours in the shack town, to know what it’s like from the inside, and to feel the isolation and pain of the young man in the story.

TAP’s November Movie of the Month is Tsotsi, the winner of the 2006 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film – the first South African film to win that prize. This post will serve as a means of discussing the movie, what makes it so powerful, and why it’s a must watch before we head to South Africa next June.

Language

When talking about Tsotsi the first thing we have to discuss is the language. South Africa has eleven official languages, and in the movie you’ll hear some English, some Afrikaans, some Zulu, and some Xhosa, but what you’ll mainly hear throughout the film is a language called Tsotsitaal.

First, let’s understand a few of those languages spoken in South Africa a bit.

Xhosa is a Bantu language spoken by people indigenous to South Africa – the Xhosa people. Xhosa is a tonal language, meaning that the meaning of a word can change depending on how you say it – rising or falling or high or low intonation. It also has click consonants – the word Xhosa itself starts with a click sound. About 7 million people, or 18% of the population, in South Africa and Lesotho speak Xhosa.

Zulu is spoken by nearly 10 million people, most of them in South Africa. It is the most common of South Africa’s “home” languages (languages that were spoken there before European settlers showed up). 24% of South Africans speak Zulu. It is in the same language family as Xhosa (a Bantu language), so many of the sounds are similar.

Afrikaans is a Germanic language. It isn’t a language spoken in the Netherlands today, but it is a branch of the Dutch language that those European settlers brought to South Africa. About 90% of Afrikaans comes from Dutch, but it also incorporates Portuguese, Bantu, and terms from other South African languages mixed in. In a way, it’s a lot like Tsotsitaal. About 14% of South Africans speak Afrikaans as their first language, but many more speak it as their second or third language. Only about 1-2% of Black Africans speak Afrikaans. It is much more prominent amongst the Coloured (mixed race), White, and Asian populations. Dutch settlers first arrived in South Africa in the middle of the 1600s.

English settlers had been in South Africa since the mid 1600s, but the British occupation and influence really began in the late 1700s. Only about 3 million people in South Africa speak English as a first language, but most of the population can speak it as their second or third language.

All that said, the language we hear most in the movie is Tsotsitaal, a language that combines Afrikaans with Zulu, other Bantu languages, some English – pretty much a stew of all 11 languages from South Africa, plus some made up words thrown in. It’s a mixed language spoken in the South African townships, like Soweto. In Tsotsitaal, the word ‘Tsotsi’ means thug or little gangster, and you’ll figure out very quickly why Tsotsi’s friends gave him the nickname Tsotsi. Only one of Tsotsi’s friends has a nickname from Tsotsitaal – Aap, the bigger friend that’s been with Tsotsi since childhood. Aap means monkey – what that says about the character, you’ll have to decide for yourself.

At first, the language was spoken by criminals in the 1960s and 70s. Using a mish-mosh of several different languages in a way that most people wouldn’t understand, it was a way to ensure that no one could figure out what the criminals were planning. As young people began looking up to these criminals, because they had achieved some level of success most township residents could only dream about, speaking Tsotsitaal became a sign of rebellion. The language continues to evolve, and any street language in the townships is now considered some version of Tsotsitaal.  Popular musicians that have grown up in areas like Soweto also influence the language greatly, as new slang terms appear in their songs and are used by young, black South Africans in everyday conversation. This happens here in America too, a lot of words from pop or hip-hop music have entered our everyday speech and changed the way we, especially the younger generation, talk.

While watching the movie, it’s interesting to pay attention to the subtitles and learn a few words of Tsotsitaal. Every now and again you’ll hear a bit of English (or at least some words that sound remarkably close) peppered in. The original speakers of Tsotsitaal are probably old men by now, but the language continues to grow and evolve with the youth today.

Music

The music may be one of the coolest things about Tsotsi. There are two completely different styles of music going on in the movie.

The first part is the film’s score – the music in the background that sort of sets the mood for each scene. This music was produced by two South African composers named Mark Kilian and Paul Hepker. The feel they wanted to create with their music was one that reflected the Soweto township itself, but also gave you a feel of the internal and external struggles that the character Tsotsi deals with throughout the movie. In the movie, Tsotsi is forced to come to terms with the awful human being he’s become, and he goes on an emotional journey that forces him to see how he became that way, and also is given an opportunity to change. In order to get all those feelings into their music, Kilian and Hepker recruited Vusi Mahlasela, a singer/musician/composer who has traveled the world playing South African music with a message of peace. Vusi is called “The Voice” in South Africa, and his music is usually about the struggle for freedom and the forgiveness of enemies. Perfect messages to fit with the movie.

Below is a clip from a concert he gave on Nelson Mandela day (stick with it – it really gets fun around 3 1/2 minutes).  It’s hard to understand what he says before the song begins, so here it is… “Thank you. Yebo (yes). Thank you ladies and gentlemen. It is a great pleasure for me to be here in front of you beautiful people tonight. And to Tata (grandfather) Madiba (Nelson Mandela) siyabonga baba (thank you friend). You’ve been more than a leader to us, you’re also like a shepherd. Now, it is more for a new chapter, for all of us, that we must give something to the world, not just take from it.”

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Almost in complete contrast is an entirely different style of music called Kwaito. Kwaito, which emerged in the townships around Johannesburg during the 1990s, is a type of house music that is a bit slower in tempo that most club music would be. It uses African instruments, sounds, and samples along with drum machines, deep bass lines, and melodic vocals. Kwaito lyrics are usually sung, rapped, and yelled. Kwaito is the most popular style of music among the black youth of South Africa – kids like Tsotsi and his friends.

The word Kwaito comes from the Afrikaans word kwaai – which can mean either angry (Dutch) or cool (English). There’s also an Africaans slang word – kwai – often used to describe music that is “hot” or “kicking.”   The kwaito music you hear in the movie, to me anyway, is fun sounding, so I imagine the meaning is closer to cool than angry.

Kwaito music started to become popular in the early 90s in Soweto, just about the time that Nelson Mandela became the first elected president of South Africa. Many economic and political changes of that time period transformed the music world, especially since black artists and producers suddenly had a lot more freedom to create and release their music. The first big Kwaito hit was a song called “Kaffir” by Arthur Mafokate. The song is about the new freedom of expression that came for black Africans with these political changes. The word Kaffir is a South African term meaning black person. While it wasn’t originally an offensive word, it has come to be viewed as a terrible ethnic slur. I don’t recommend using the word.

The Kwaito music in Tsotsi is almost all from a poet/musician/actor named Zola. For Zola, Kwaito music is about empowering poor black African youth in the bad neighborhoods of South Africa. His music contains messages about the crime and poverty in the townships, but also about rising up from these conditions and making a life for yourself. He is the biggest music star in South Africa today, many people joke that he’s the “second biggest brand in the country, next to Nelson Mandela.” Zola, who also plays the role of the rich gangster Fela in the movie, raps in a combination of Zulu and Tsotsitaal.

According to the film’s director, Gavin Hood, “We met Zola who is a fantastic guy with tremendous energy and a great deal of social commitment to his community. And just a great person, and he really supported the film. You know, some people have said, and I feel like I’ve gone on the record with this, you know, there are other Kwaito artists who are very good – how come more of them aren’t in the movie? I mean, honest truth was, is our budget, some of the record companies that represented those artists, and I won’t name them, wanted so much money per song, that like by two songs, we were done (budget), we had nothing. And Zola was the person who came in and said, ‘Hey, I want to support this movie.’ And he kept certain rights to the soundtrack. So it was a good deal for everyone. If the movie does well, he’ll do fine. If it didn’t, he was supporting us and trying to get a South African film made. And I’m very grateful to him for doing that.”

Location – Johannesburg vs Soweto

The entire movie is a psychological look at how a young man raised in poverty, surrounded by violence, and completely isolated from love reacts when forced to look at who he has become. It’s about the external influences and expectations in his life conflicting with the internal desire not to be the monster he is. That conflict is reflected throughout the movie by many different characters, the music, and most obviously the setting itself.

One of the early scenes in the movie is set in a rich neighborhood. A wealthy black African woman gets out of her expensive car to get her husband to open the gate in front of their house – a gate that separates and protects them from the people who don’t have what they have. The movie was filmed in a real Pretoria (another big South African city) neighborhood where all the nice houses are surrounded by high fences, electric gates, and security systems to keep out trouble.

Soon after, we see the poverty of the township. Tsotsi steals the car and heads for his home – a shack. Something that looks to us here in the comfort of America like it was made out of scraps and garbage. Soon we realize that there is a whole city of these shacks. Some, like Tsotsi’s don’t look like much, but others, like Miriam’s (the young woman with the baby) are quite nice. There’s a psychological line there too – Tsotsi lives in squalor while Mariam has made a nice home for herself in the same environment. You can decide what that says about those two characters.

We see later in the movie – first through flashbacks, but later when Tsotsi actually walks there – that some people live even worse than in the shack towns. Some families, including Tsotsi at a young age, live in cement pipes stacked on top of one another long ago for some long forgotten construction project – an advancement and improvement that someone decided not to bring to that shack community.

Even the movie poster shows highlights the difference between the richer gated communities of Johannesburg and the townships like Soweto. Take a close look at the poster. In the foreground is Tsotsi in front of a broken down old shack. Off in the distance, with the sun either setting or rising behind it – is the richer, easier, safer, better section of Johannesburg. There’s a vast space, that’s shown several times in the actual movie, separating the two worlds. A perfect symbol for life in the townships, a life like Tsotsi’s.

Cast/Director

Gavin Hood, a writer/actor/director from Johannesburg, wrote the screenplay for and directed Tsotsi. It was his third film, and after winning the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, Hood has gone on to big budget Hollywood projects like X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Ender’s Game.

Talking about the Wolverine movie, Hood said,

“Any movie that is simple about good versus evil… is in my view putting out into the world and certainly into a mass audience and young audience’s mind a rather dangerous philosophy, which is that there is good and evil in the simplistic and easily defined way… I think that for years, we’ve had the philosophy that if you’re on the side of good, at least as you perceive it, then you can do no evil… That’s what’s so great about this character or about this movie for me and why I wanted to do it… This is a guy who recognizes his own capacity for evil and I think that’s exciting in a popular culture kind of way. After all, the most famous line from Woverine, the comics, is ‘I am the best there is at what I do, but what I do best isn’t very nice.’”

In a lot of ways, except the direct reference to Wolverine, that quote could be about Tsotsi too. With Tsotsi, Hood didn’t set out to make a South African movie. He feels the story transcends place – it could be in LA, Chicago, Mexico, Moscow, or China. “It’s essentially a story of a young person struggling to find the identity without parental and social support systems. I hope that that makes the film, gives it a timeless and universal quality. I think that’s what appeals to me about the movie was being able to combine this timeless and universal tale with a very specific setting (South Africa) so you get a real flavor.”

While getting ready to make the film, Gavin Hood had to fight with studio heads and investors that wanted a big name American actor in the role of Tsotsi. Hood won out and was able to cast “found” actors from right there in the South African neighborhoods. Most importantly, he found Presley Chweneygae, who plays Tsotsi, working in local theatres. He was just 21 years old when the movie was made, and although he’d acted in plays for years, Tsotsi was his first movie. Presley won numerous awards for his portrayal of Tsotsi and continues to act in South African movies. His mother named him after her favorite performer, Elvis Presley. He was born in the Northwest Provence of South Africa, north of Johannesburg, in a neighborhood he describes as rough and tough, growing up around killers.

Initially, Presley auditioned for the part of Butcher in the movie, but a conversation between him and the director led to him asking if he could do Tsotsi instead. He felt the experiences he had growing up in a bad neighborhood were enough to help him get into the mindset of the character, and Gavin Hood told him stories about his own mother (Hood’s) being robbed and carjacked twice. That was enough for the two artists to bond and focus on the idea of how a character’s history can affect them and make them angry at the world, but how the best option (in real life and for the character) was to focus on the present.

While playing Tsotsi, he said it was an advantage that he didn’t know any of the other actors, so while he was friendly to them all on set, he didn’t hang out or get to know any of them. The character, Tsotsi, is like an island in the middle of this storm, so he felt that the isolation gave him a better insight into his character’s life.

Book

Athol Fugard is an insanely popular South African writer/actor/director who grew up in Middleburg (fittingly right in the middle of South Africa. He spent a great deal of his life living through the Apartheid era in the Southern city – Port Elizabeth and in Johannesburg. As far back as 1958, Fugard worked to organize multi-racial theatre companies in South Africa, for which he acted, wrote, and directed. Most of his plays are about the opposition to Apartheid. Fugard is of English and Afrikaner heritage, and is best known for the plays Blood Knot and Master Harold and the Boys – which Presely Chwenygae read as part of his high school’s curriculum. In 2010, The Fugard Theatre was opened in the District Six section of Cape Town.

Blood Knot is the story of two South African half-brothers (same mother, different fathers), one who is much fairer skinned than the other and can pass for white. The play stirs up all sorts of heavy themes, including jealousy, fairness, love, family, race, and class. Master Harold and the Boys is about a young white boy growing up with a strained relationship with his racist father and the friendship he forms with two middle-aged black African servants. He learns valuable life lessons from them, but those lessons can’t translate back into the racist world he lives in.

Tsotsi was originally a book written in 1980 by Athol Fugard. It is Fugad’s only novel. It’s fitting that a man who writes mostly for the stage had his one non-theatrical piece of writing made into a movie. As you watch the movie, think about the themes of Blood Knot and Master Harold, as well as Tsotsi the novel. All of Fugard’s work is about giving faces to the people of all races who have become victims of the South African system. They aren’t really about politics, history, or genre – what they are are stories about what it means to be human.  That leads us to…

Ubuntu

Ubuntu is a Bantu phrase that means “human-ness.” Many people in Southern Africa (not just South Africa, because remember the borders are created by the Europeans, the tribes/languages/ideas don’t necessarily subscribe to those borders) translate it as “human kindness” or “humanity towards others.” However, the exact feeling of the word can’t be translated perfectly. It’s a philosophical belief, a way of thinking and living that says there’s a universal bond of sharing that connects every human being on some level. For a group like ours, that loves traveling the world and meeting new people and understanding the way they live – that’s an awesome belief.

According to South African history/philosophy professor and author Michael Onyebuch Eze, Ubuntu can be summarized as…

‘A person is a person through other people’ strikes an affirmation of one’s humanity through recognition of an ‘other’ in his or her uniqueness and difference. It is a demand for a creative intersubjective formation in which the ‘other’ becomes a mirror (but only a mirror) for my subjectivity. This idealism suggests to us that humanity is not embedded in my person solely as an individual; my humanity is co-substantively bestowed upon the other and me. Humanity is a quality we owe to each other. We create each other and need to sustain this otherness creation. And if we belong to each other, we participate in our creations: we are because you are, and since you are, definitely I am. The ‘I am’ is not a rigid subject, but a dynamic self-constitution dependent on this otherness creation of relation and distance”.[

In much simpler terms, the best translation I’ve seen of Ubuntu was from Tsotsi’s director Gavin Hood. He said Ubuntu means, “I am human – because you are human.” Wow!

Here’s one more from Vusi with that message in mind…

Now I want you to watch Tsotsi with that concept of Ubuntu in mind.

__________

Tsotsi is a great movie.  There’s a reason it won the Academy Award.  On it’s surface level it’s a psychological thriller that keeps us on the edge of our seat while we root for Tsotsi’s redemption.  The ups and downs of the movie are powerful, and the characters of the film will likely stick in your mind for years.  Looking at it on a deeper level, as a traveler about to visit South Africa, it’s fun to dissect the movie – taking closer looks at the music, the themes, the setting, and the language, but I think it’s must powerful to watch it with that concept of Ubuntu in mind – that we are who we are, because Tsotsi, Aap, Boston, Butcher, Fela, Mariam, and all the characters we meet are who they are – we’re all connected.

Not all of South Africa is the dark, disturbing world Tsotsi lives in, and I hope we don’t meet anyone that reminds us of him too much. It’s important to realize that this film isn’t representative of all of South Africa – just as not everyone here in America is a character from The Godfather, Dumb and Dumber, or Superman comics.  It is, however, a lens we can use to look at portions of the country we may not see, problems that do exist, people that do live like that.  Perhaps watching the movie and understanding the concept of Ubuntu while we do is an important thing to do before heading to South Africa next summer.

We ask that all of our South Africa travelers take the time to watch Tsotsi, then come back here to discuss the movie, the social commentary, the language, the connections to reality, the music, and Ubuntu  The longer and more in depth our discussion gets, the better it is for all of us. Tsotsi is available on Netflix streaming.  

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51 Comments leave one →
  1. November 16, 2014 11:16 am

    First of all, let me say that I really liked this movie. From the description on the back of the movie I got from the library, I expected a movie that mostly dealt with Tsotsi being in prison. However, what I got was far more impacting and emotional than I ever expected. Throughout the movie, my liking for Tsotsi fluctuated based on his Ubuntu, or, as Boston put it, his decency. It was really interesting to see how something as mundane as caring for a baby affected a thug. Overall, though, my favorite part of the movie was the music. I found myself greatly enjoying the Kwaito music, as it is very similar to American hip-hop, only in another language, This relates to another topic that I liked in the movie: the language. Hearing the Tsotsitaal really helped to improve my understanding and appreciation for the citizens of Soweto.

    • November 16, 2014 8:33 pm

      I’m glad you enjoyed the movie, Jordan. I think paying attention to those “little things” like the music and the language will make your time in South Africa even more enjoyable and educational.

    • cj moody permalink
      February 7, 2015 1:42 pm

      Overall did you like Tsotsi as a person or did you dislike him?

  2. Ms. Tadey permalink
    November 25, 2014 8:19 pm

    I will admit, I have not seen the movie yet. I plan on watching it this weekend with my family but I was so excited by this post because I LOVE the music of Vusi Mahlasela. He has performed with so many excellent and well known performers and has used his music to serve the good of his country’s people. After listening to his music, it is easy to understand why he is simply called “The Voice.” That sobriquet has a much deeper meaning. It does not refer just to his physical voice, but his role as the voice of his people. When I met Bishop Tutu he spoke about Vusi and how his music was polarizing for the people. He is admired by his countrymen and women and continues to bring the struggles of South Africans to light. I can’t wait to watch this movie.

    • November 25, 2014 8:36 pm

      I’m glad you posted this Ms. Tadey. I’d never heard of Vusi before researching the music from this movie, but I spent about an hour watching his videos on YouTube after I found him. I even included one of his songs in our latest post about food. I have a feeling that “Say Africa” may become our anthem for this trip. His messages are so powerful, but simple that I’m just fascinated by his music.

  3. Maddy Trouvais permalink
    November 27, 2014 10:29 pm

    I really enjoyed this movie. At first, I thought the movie was going to be all flashbacks while he was in jail, based off of the description. But as the movie started, I found out that wasn’t the case. For me, it was hard to follow at first because I really didn’t understand what was happening. But after the scene when Tsotsi followed that paralyzed man, I started to get a feel for the movie and started to understand what was happening. In the movie, the first thing I noticed was the subtitles. I liked that because then you could hear the language they were speaking and read what they were saying in English translation, rather than the movie being in full English. You could hear what their accents were and how their language sounded. I also really liked the music. It sounded so different than the music we normally hear. Its unique, and I love listening to it. The vibe that the music in South Africa gives off is extraordinary to me.

    • November 28, 2014 9:40 pm

      You’re one of the first people I’ve ever heard say they enjoyed the subtitles. I agree with your reason why, it’s just not something you hear often.

  4. Hannah Breier permalink
    December 7, 2014 1:07 pm

    Honestly, I do not like movies that are scary or violent. But this movie was amazing. It taught me about South African language, music, and how much love a parent can have for a child. I really liked how the director included subtitles instead of the whole movie in English. It was a great lesson to see how it compared to our language. I also thought it gave a little bit more of a scary tone to climatic parts. Second, i really liked. the music. It was such a different taste then american music, and it showed how it contributes to their culture. Last, I absolutely loved the theme that the director put in. It showed me how much love a parent can have for the smallest thing. For example when the lady whose husband died and she had a young son, she asked multiple times to take him in even though she didn’t know him. Overall, I really liked this movie for teaching me things about South Africa and a moral about life at the same time.

    • December 7, 2014 1:22 pm

      We’re really glad you took away the right messages from the movie. We’re betting seeing Tsotsi will make our visit to Soweto even more powerful for you.

  5. Stephanie Melendez permalink
    December 7, 2014 1:27 pm

    When I first heard that the movie was going to be in subtitles I got a little worried because I’m not the type of person that likes to read movies. As I got further and further into the movie, my eyes were glued onto those subtitles. I have to admit that I really, really enjoyed this movie. Actually, it’s not the movie that I was expecting at all! From reading the back of the movie, I was expecting the movie to be all about Tsotsi’s time in prison. I actually like how the movie turned out rather than how it was portrayed in it’s description. The thing I liked most about this movie was how Tsotsi changed from the beginning to the end of the movie. I personally believe that if he never found that baby in the back of the car, he would still be the horrible monster that he used to be. But finding the baby made him think of how bad of a past that he had himself. Until he realized that returning the baby back to it’s parents was the right thing to do in the end. The last scene of the movie was what actually made me like Tsotsi because he was showing some “decency” towards the family of that baby. Also, the music in the movie contributed to the feelings and moods that the characters were encountering. Not going to lie, but I was dancing around whenever a song came on because it was very up beat. African music is not much different from American music if you really think about it. All in all, I would say that Tsotsi was a pretty extraordinary movie after all. This movie made me realize that change can happen to anyone if you just set your heart and mind to it!

    • December 7, 2014 3:58 pm

      It is a very powerful message, and like one of the interviews I read said, it really could have taken place in any poor neighborhood anywhere in the world.

  6. Kelsie permalink
    December 7, 2014 1:47 pm

    Overall, this movie had an extremely powerful message to me. It shows how even though someone can seem “bad” on the outside, they really can have strong emotions and memories of their past. Tsosti kept having flashbacks about his childhood and I think that is why he cares for the baby so well. He had a rough childhood and wanted that baby to have a much better one. I think the subtitles added to the power of the movie because if it had been in English, the language’s added affect wouldn’t have been there. In addition to the language, the beautiful music added an empowering sense to many of the scenes. Lastly, this movie shows how even though people have treated you wrongly, you do not have to treat them the same way. The young woman who fed the baby in the village wanted help Tsosti. Tsosti had forced her to do things, yet she was still kind enough to offer help by keeping the baby. This movie was moving with the language, music, and themes adding so much power to the overall story.

    • December 7, 2014 3:59 pm

      You’re absolutely right, Kelsie, the music had a huge emotional impact. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

      • erin seymour permalink
        December 13, 2014 5:49 am

        It was very violent and I’m not a violent person but this movie was so amazing. I liked how he went back for the baby after he walked away. It was really sad at the end to and very calm when they were asking fire the baby back. I thought a fight was going to break out. Very surprising though at the beginning. Since I’m in band and I love music, I recognized the music in a way that would effect someone emotionally because off the tone and the tempo and ur was very sad music. Plus, I noticed that the main character is dynamic because he changed dramatically throughout the movie.

        • December 17, 2014 3:11 pm

          Nice literary terms. Sounds like you’ve been paying attention in Language Arts.

  7. taylor b permalink
    December 30, 2014 1:21 pm

    after watching District 9, I didn’t have very high hopes for this movie. however, it far surpassed what I thought it would be. I didn’t read the description before watching the movie, so I wasn’t sure of what I would watch. this movie encompasses the struggles of parenthood for families who don’t have a lot of money while showing the problems of Soweto. i think Soweto will have a bigger impact on me now that I’ve seen what it’s like.

    • December 31, 2014 10:36 am

      What did you see in the movie that you think will be something that affects you while we’re touring Soweto?

      • January 11, 2015 2:10 pm

        I think just the history of it all will really affect me. And the way the people of the town stick together

  8. Emily Blenck permalink
    January 2, 2015 5:05 pm

    Wow, I honestly was extremely touched by this movie and all of the emotional and physical struggles that it captures. One of my favorite parts of the film was how they kind of compared the life of two mothers living in very different social classes and standards. They show the mother that lives in the rustier and crime filled area of Soweto and how much affection and effort she put towards both her child and David(or whatever stolen baby’s name is). Yet it also shows the home of the mother in the higher status who seemed to have it all; a child, a husband, a gorgeous home, only to have that all stripped away by Tsoti’s actions. I guess you could find a deep metaphor within that, but basically it’s pretty cool how they show the different lifestyles that live within the country. I also really enjoyed the music from the movie. All of it was very impactful and helped give a hint at all the emotions Tsoti was going through. Overall, I thought this was an excellent movie and I will definitely have it in my thoughts when we tour Soweto.

    • January 3, 2015 10:11 am

      Wow! A very insightful comment, Emily. Everyone else should take note. This level of thought is what we’re really looking for here – specific examples from the movie, referencing the article the teachers wrote, and thoughts on how this assignment will help you on the trip. Nice work, Emily!

  9. Austin Stein permalink
    January 8, 2015 11:00 pm

    I’m pleased to say that I was delightfully surprised at Tsotsi. Going into the movie, I really had no idea what to expect. I was either going to be blown away or be disappointed in what I’d just watched. Evidently, it was the prior. No wonder it won an Academy Award; this movie was different. It was suspenseful. It was charming and heartbreaking at the same time. But what I think I love about this movie the most was the main motif: humanity. Tsotsi is this cold, harden young man from a traumatic background with a criminal life being the only road he follows. And even when he was given the choice to leave the baby in the car or take it along, my intuition screamed to me that he couldn’t leave this child he’d just stolen, and I was correct. Yes, Tsotsi made some incredibly harsh, dangerous, and risky moves to have the child well and healthy, and while they are unforgivable, it’s his heart that turns our antagonist of many lives to the protagonist of our movie. The emotional depth of Tsotsi was outstanding. He was more than a character; he was human. And in those final moments, when he gave up the baby to his rightful parents, Tsotsi, the cold hearted criminal, died and allowed David, the warm hearted boy, to reemerge. This movie was gold, and props to its beauty and genius.

    • January 9, 2015 7:32 pm

      Very nice analysis. Do you think this movie had to be in South Africa, or was it more of a universal story?

      • Austin Stein permalink
        March 12, 2015 8:01 pm

        Locating the story in South Africa gave Tsotsi a unique feel to it. It was a nice change of pace to see a setting not in America or outer space as the film industry loves to do. However, it didn’t need to be set in South Africa. This movie was certainly universal, but having the focus being in an area most people have never seen in film or in general, yet is a real life location, added a nice charm to an already wonderful story.

  10. Brian Cottingim permalink
    February 2, 2015 2:48 pm

    When I saw the first few scenes of this movie I was not sure if I was going to like it. But I was pleased when the plot actually started to take form, But the plot was not my favorite part of the movie. I liked listening to the language of the film, and the music the most. The plot was OK but it didn’t reflect on anything that South Africa is. This movie could be filmed in any country and it would make sense. But the language and music sets this movie apart. I noticed that the language was a little like ours. There was words in the movie that sound exactly the same as the works in English. Just with an accent. Their language in general is very different from English and a lot of other European languages. The music was simply amazing, although I do not listen to hip-hop a lot, it was good. I also noticed the music gets more emotional as the movie goes on. I feel like if I was given the soundtrack of the movie and was had to guess what the movie was about with only the music and the title, I think I could come up with a simple summary of the story. Overall I enjoyed the movie. But probably would not watch it again.

    • February 2, 2015 4:50 pm

      I’m glad there were things that stuck out to you. I’m sure we’ll hear a great deal of Kwaito music while we’re in South Africa.
      Do you really think that this movie could have taken place in a poor neighborhood anywhere else in the world. Is the extreme separation between the haves and the have-nots a global problem or one that’s specific to South Africa?

    • cj moody permalink
      February 7, 2015 1:28 pm

      I completely agree with you about the beginning of the movie, but i really enjoyed the plot and the language, it really made the movie a lot better even with the subtitles. What didn’t you like about the plot?

  11. cjmoody2015 permalink
    February 6, 2015 10:29 pm

    In my opinion, FAVORITE movie. All time. EVER. The beginning, i wasn’t sure what to think of it, and frankly had to make sure it was the right movie. As it went on I caught on to how their language works. Although it may sound way off from English, its not too far. The other few movies we’ve watched had the whole history aspect was great and all, but Tsotsi was that one little tid bit that we needed. Don’t get me wrong i loved the other movies too but this one gets into the language and the music more than the others and that was great to me. The storyline was also really good and personally, i think it was best fit for South Africa because it shows the most difference there, between poor Soweto and the higher class family. Not for one second did i want the movie to be in English (which usually i would).

    • February 7, 2015 2:53 pm

      Glad you liked it. It’s a very powerful film. Which music did you like?

      • cj moody permalink
        February 7, 2015 4:53 pm

        I listen to hip-hip and rap so i really enjoyed hearing the sort of hip-hop upbeat music, but i really enjoyed the softer music too because it sets the tone for the movie and they did a great job with that

  12. erin seymour permalink
    February 7, 2015 4:30 pm

    I like the music at the end. It was very moving. I love music. Hi Ms. Tadey.

  13. Cameron Smith permalink
    February 8, 2015 12:48 pm

    I really enjoyed this movie. At first I expected the movie to be all about crime and in a way it is but honestly there is so much more to it. Through out the whole movie I never thought of tsotsi as a bad person but instead of someone who has to make money by committing crimes. What I mean is he is so poor that he has to steal just to make it by. Tsotsi may of committed crimes but he is still a good person. Tsotsi could of easily just left the baby but instead chooses to take care of it. Even at the end of the movie tsotsi brings the baby back to his parents. Speaking of the ending I thought it was great because tsotsi and the rich family gain each other’s respect despite them being in different social classes. That’s why I enjoyed the movie.

    • February 8, 2015 2:22 pm

      Do you think Tsotsi was a better person because of his experiences with the baby?

  14. Dylan Blough permalink
    February 19, 2015 12:37 pm

    Im going to start off saying that this movie made my top 10 favorite movies of all time list. The view into the townships was an eye opening experience. It showed how not only the affluent South Africans live, but also the not so well off people. I agree with Cameron’s comment right above mine about Tsotsi being a good person that comits crimes to make ends meet. But I also think that he also does these things because he doesnt know any better, due to the fact that he grew up on the streets. He could have just left that baby, but instead took the baby to take care of it because he knew it was the somewhat right thing to do in the given situation.

    • February 19, 2015 12:41 pm

      Is he a good person? He’s part of a group of thieves that murder someone, he shot an unarmed woman, he steals, he severely beats his friend… I think you could argue that the baby (and what happens because of him) brings some of Tsotsi’s humanity to the surface and near the end he might be approaching being “good,” but I think good person is a bit strong. What kind of person do you think he’d be if the baby had never entered his life?

      • Dylan Blough permalink
        February 19, 2015 12:54 pm

        I think he’s just doing what he knows. What I mean by that is that growing up on the streets taught him about crime and other bad things. If the baby had never entered his life, I feel that he would continue crime on the street, because thats all he’s ever known.

        • February 19, 2015 1:04 pm

          So is he a “good person”?

          • Dylan Blough permalink
            February 19, 2015 6:11 pm

            After rereading your post and going through a few scenes in the movie, I’m changing my opinion on Tsotsi’s character. I think that in the beginning of the movie he wasn’t a good person, but as the baby came he started to feel more human compassion.

            • February 20, 2015 8:01 am

              Does that change what you felt about the movie as a whole?

              • Dylan Blough permalink
                February 21, 2015 5:43 pm

                Not really, because even though this movie is fiction, it still gives a good look into the cities and the outlying townships.

  15. Yazmine Thomas permalink
    February 27, 2015 3:14 pm

    This has been my favorite movie thus far. In the beginning of the movie the subtitles bothered me but by the end I didn’t even notice they were there. The movie accurately depicted the different social classes in South Africa. I don’t think the crimes that were committed throughout the movie is that much different from the crimes we see today, in our own country. The main cause of crime is poverty, I think this holds true world wide. I feel Tsotsi was always decent person, he just had to do what he needed to do to survive.The way he grew affected the way he viewed the world, he was incapable of compassion. After David and the lady who often fed David came into his life, he realized that they way he lived and what he was doing wasn’t right. It took sometime, but Tsosti did what right and accepted his consequence. That’s more than you can say about many criminals today.

    • March 1, 2015 9:37 am

      Would you say that Tsotsi found redemption? Did he really make amends for the crimes he committed?

      • Yazmine Thomas permalink
        March 1, 2015 12:17 pm

        Yes, I think David led to his redemption. At the start of the movie he was going down the wrong path. The scene where he chose not to kill David’s father shows his shift in character. By giving David back to his family and accepting responsibility for the crime committed, I Believe he did make amends

        • March 1, 2015 6:14 pm

          Even for shooting David’s mother, beating up Teacher, stealing cars…?

  16. Gianna Kriechbaum permalink
    March 13, 2015 4:24 pm

    This was honestly one of my favorite movies of them all. It kept me interested and wanting more from beginning to end. There were only very few spots where i wasn’t sure how i felt, but other than that i was very intrigued. i loved how heartfelt it was at times. Like when he follows the homeless man in a wheelchair. Or how much he cares for the baby. And with the baby, when he first took it i was really just wondering “Whats he going to do with it? Is he going to leave it somewhere? Care for it on his won?” It was all just a big roller coaster for me. And though the movie was so saddening and beautiful at times, there were also a couple of funny parts that i quite enjoyed. To me, there is nothing funnier than watching a young boy try to figure out how to put a diaper on a baby. But anyway, this movie was really amazing and i fell in love with the characters and the plot was just amazing. I plan on watching this movie a couple more times probably just this year.

  17. Haley Watson permalink
    March 26, 2015 4:29 pm

    I think Tsotsi was always a good person, but just did bad things because he grew up on his own. If Tsotsti was not a good person, or didn’t have any good in him, I don’t think he would have taken the baby with him, he would of not cared about the child and left it there. But instead, he took the baby back with him and started to care for the baby. You could see with his encounter with the man in the wheelchair that he was changing and developing to a better person. The subtitles were weird at first but I got used to them. There were things that made me like and dislike the subtitles.

    • March 27, 2015 7:15 am

      What is one thing you took away from this movie that you think will help you in South Africa?

  18. Ronnie Stovall permalink
    April 8, 2015 9:28 pm

    Tsotsi (David) was a good man that had a bad past and ended on the wrong side of the street. He tried to act tuff and he was. His dad killed his dog, his mom was dying and dad was abusive and drunk. So he ran away living in giant stone cylinders with people. I did like the movie the music it fit in with the mood of what was going. A lot of the words were spoken in English with an accent. I know I watched the movies out of order, but it was more of the serious movies than the rest each had a upbeat and comedy. Like shot a woman and stole a baby even know he didn’t know he was in there. then when the baby was covered in ants that was like child abuse I felt so bad for him. I thought that was horrible. I think the baby was his angel in a way how he turned out to be the good guy. It was sad he was arrested, but stealing two cars, shooting a person making them crippled forever, and breaking and entering so he got what he dissevered. I thought he should have said something in the end I think the movie would have been better. A lot of the simple words are like English that I could understand. It was a good movie

  19. Ronnie Stovall permalink
    April 9, 2015 5:53 pm

    Africa may be beautiful in a lot of area, but there is also a bad side a poor town or ghetto like in America. Like in downtown Chicago it is nice and has something going on every time, there is a less appealing side of Chicago and made this contrast to South Africa. I really couldn’t imagine kids living in cylinders since we don’t have that open for them to live in. The crime is the same there are gangs and good. In The presentations I read how the crime rate is actually higher than In America so I still think it is an equal amount of danger and there not much different

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