Saturday, August 9, 2008

"Tsotsi" (2005) : A New Presley to Love

I swear to myself that from now on, I’m going to keep a little notebook on my person at all times. Then, not only will I be able to jot down the name of some fabulous movie that I “must” see, but I’ll also be able to write down the name of the person who recommended it. That way, when I hit the eject button after viewing some cinematic masterpiece, I’ll know who to thank.

Whoever suggested I see "Tsotsi," thank you. When it arrived in the mail, aside from some vague recollection of someone telling me I should see it, I knew nothing about it.

What surfaced about all else in this film was the acting. Performances all around were phenomenal but Presley Chweneyagae (“Tsotsi”) left me in awe. Here was a character with the most base and brutal essence---who slowly opens like a flower.

The director’s (Gavin Hood) approach of shooting Presley speaking directly into the camera contributes to the gut-wrenching glory of his performance. It was a painful yet beautiful film to watch, laying bare the socio-economic struggles between the haves and have nots in Johannesburg, through the eyes of gang leader, “Tsotsi.” And, by the way, it won all sorts of awards in 2005 and 2006, including an Oscar in 2006 for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year.

Speaking of language...the only thing that caught me up was my own ignorant fault. As I said, I didn’t know anything about the film beforehand. When the dialogue began, the annoying thought of “Gee, what language are they speaking?” kept popping into my head. “Did that word sound German?” “Why are some words in English?” Chalk this up to my own fascination with language, I guess. In the DVD extras, the director makes a point of explaining how important it was to the story for the leads to speak their native language. I couldn’t agree more. And if you’d like a bit of info on the language:

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