Thursday, 8 April 2010

'What kind of bastard would break a dog's back? '

Dir. Gavin Hood
(Momentum Pictures 2005)

If ever there was a film that was a honey syrup, Tostsi is it. Tsotsi's path to redemption, after shooting a mother, and stealing her car with her baby in the back seat feels stilted, just a series of scenes and details, so come Oscar season we're in with a shout. The studio was just ticking a check-list of South African clich├ęs and heart wrenching stories. The HIV posters are carefully placed in a lot of the wide shots. No surprise it's directed by a white man, Gavin Hood, because the camera really does feel at a distance, especially in the slums - but not voyeuristic and real, more MTV music video. Hood's previous profession before directing was law, interesting because, the film does feel like an extortion of the slums of Johannesburg, everything feels used in this story of reparation.

Yet the potential for this film to succeed is clear to see, who doesn't want to see a a young boy struggling to get by in Johannesburg, fighting to survive, - it's gripping. And there are moments.. when Tsotsi runs away from the car after seeing the baby, he runs through the night sky in the pouring rain, there is an energy, it's beautiful – but it's a rare moment.

Tsotsi's dialogue with a disabled coal miner at the train station before and after he is a changed man just feels false and is systemic of the whole film. Indeed our protagonist's transformation feels just wrong, turning form nasty street hoodlum to caring youth at the flick of a switch. A poor and uncomfortable film to watch, watch Shirley Adams instead. The film has no UK distribution, but next time you're in South Africa, watch it and see real life in Johannesburg.

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