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Gavin Hood

Directed by: Gavin Hood
“Every man has a name,” says one of Tsotsi’s henchman. “A name given to him by his mother.” But Tsotsi, or simply “Thug,” won’t give his real name, and beats the shit out of his friend for challenging him. This is the story of a young man and his buddies in the poor townships outside Johannesburg, South Africa. Tsotsi will mercilessly kill for money, and shoots a woman while stealing her car, not realizing there’s a baby in the back seat. He takes the child when he strips the vehicle, and looking after the infant sparks something in him, giving him a reason outside himself to go on beyond simple survival. Yes, it’s cut with some heavy sentiment complete with family trauma flashbacks and cute baby footage, but Hood’s Academy Award-winning film—for best foreign language feature—is dark and beautiful to see, with a production value matching anything Hollywood might release. Though it hasn’t the epic scope nor the grit of Fernando Meirelles’s generational crime drama City of God, it does similarly examine people driven to desperation by a lack of options, looking for hope and respect. It takes a little time to show the other side, too, how some in South Africa with means live in fear behind tall electric gates. Pair the pictures for a heavy double bill.
—Carsten Knox


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