Genre: Crime Drama (UK, South Africa)
Starring: Presley Chweneyagae
Directed By: Gavin Hood
Overview: Set in Johannesburg, this is the Foreign Academy Award winning story of 'Thug', and how his life changes when he finds a child in a stolen car.
Acting: Well either IMDB is a big racist or neither the director nor Presley has really worked on anything else. In all fairness, I don't think South Africa is a hub of film-making, Charlize aside. Sure I found a moment here or there that seemed like the reins of direction should have been pulled tighter, but not many.
Cinematography: Going into this, I was looking most forward to seeing the 'real Johannesburg', you know getting a good look at the cities and the culture. 'How bad is it really?' kind of stuff. I will not be so ignorant as to say that this movie showed me everything I needed to know about this slum-filled city, but the fact that much of what we saw was indeed slum-life made it unique and interesting. Call me a glutton for misery.
Script: Having spent so much time with Silent Film, and the verbal diarrhea that occurred in films of the early thirties (not that it doesn't still happen today), I have grown to appreciate silence in films. A moment of contemplation can be far better than ramble. A lot of time is spent in this film just watching quiet interactions, drawing out a silence or time alone, and it works. When people did speak however, it was sometimes a touch preachy.
Plot: The ending was awkward. The middle had awkward moments. I mean look, if you shoot someone, steal their car, find their baby and decide to keep it, it doesn't make you a good person, it makes you a kidnapper, and it makes you a bad one too if you let ants crawl all over your new baby's face. Yes, you want to feel for this ruffian, but then often you don't. I don't know why so many people in the audience laughed at the degree of neglect that this child was enduring, but I suspect I live in a town full of racists. "Oh the negro child's got to get used to being worse off. Isn't it cute? He's learning early." Yeah, I know the point is the change that Tsotsi undergoes but it was just really weird sometimes the way the story went about it.
Mood: The Africa of Darwin's Nightmare is about a bleak as you can get. This is far more tolerable. Ascent and 'decency' are the main themes and focus is certainly precise. You're left with a hope in humanity while still not immersed in some veneered little happy ending. It's realistic enough while still being sure that this was an adaptation from a novel. It ends with all the loose strings tied up. You know you're getting older when it's realism in vagaries that you seek, rather than a five-act play.
Overall Rating: 76% (Tso-Tso)
Aftertaste: Is it that my film viewing has gotten so numerous that I need to see something different and 'out-there' for it to entice me? I don't think so. Joyeux Noel was really nothing strange, and it moved me to no end. I think I'll chalk it up to being a film that just seemed wrapped up in too nice a package. Each life lesson is so clearly mapped out that we can plot Tsotsi's appreciation for human life from scene to scene like an engineer's graph. The people I saw this with also had their reservations, and after all is said and done, great job for Johannesburg, I'm happy they're getting on the map, but really? Did this win an Oscar from the pity vote?