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Tsotsi Toronto and Edinburgh winner

The 30th Toronto International Film Festival announced the Canadian and International awards on September 17, 2005 during its annual Awards Brunch.

The People’s Choice Award, voted on by Festival audiences – known worldwide for their enthusiasm and love of cinema went to Tsotsi to Gavin Hood's TSOTSI (UK/South Africa), based on the novel by Athol Fugard and traces six days in the lonely, violent life of Tsotsi (meaning "thug"), a ruthless, young gang leader.

Tsotsi means “thug” or “gangster” in the street language of South Africa’s townships. In director Gavin Hood’s new film about the legacy of that country’s deprivation and violence, it is the only name by which we know the main character, a moniker he has taken as a proclamation to the world. Adapted from a novel by the eminent South African playwright Athol Fugard and set in the gritty, hair-trigger environment of the Johannesburg ghettos, the film is relentless in its portrayal of one man’s battle with his own brutal nature and the past that bred it.

One night, after winning a bloody bar fight, Tsotsi (Presley Chweneyagae) comes upon an opportunity for a spontaneous carjacking. Speeding away in the stolen BMW, he is startled by a sound from the back seat and crashes the car on a deserted highway. Seemingly nonplussed to discover a small infant there, he abandons the vehicle and the baby. Moments later, some long-neglected instinct compels him to return, scoop the baby into a shopping bag and hustle through the darkness to his ramshackle home in the townships.

Realizing almost immediately that he has neither the skills nor the temperament to care for a child, Tsotsi zeroes in on Miriam (Terry Pheto), a young mother in his neighbourhood, and forces her at gunpoint into caring for “his” baby. Tsotsi’s uneasy, negotiated relationship with Miriam and the child aims at his redemption but provokes a volcanic chain of events resulting in yet more confrontation.

As Tsotsi, Chweneyagae has extraordinary charisma and power, utterly believable as a powder keg of potential violence that conceals an aching, childlike core. When faced with the grace and dignity of Miriam, his drive to save himself through a child is a natural yearning. Ably guided by Hood and surrounded by the raw energy of South African Kwaito music, Tsotsi and Miriam become symbols of the struggle towards dignity and away from poverty, violence and a cold, hard world.
Jane Schoettle

Gavin Hood was born in Johannesburg and studied there at the University of the Witwatersrand and at the University of California, Los Angeles. He directed educational dramas for the South African Department of Health before directing his first short film, The Storekeeper, in 1998. His first feature film was A Reasonable Man (99), which he also co-produced, wrote and starred in. His other features are the Polish-language In Desert and Wilderness (01) and Tsotsi (05).

Production Company: The UK Film & TV Production Company Plc/Moviworld (PTY) Ltd.
Executive Producer: Sam Bhembe, Robbie Little, Doug Mankoff, Basil Ford, Joseph D'Morais, Alan Howden, Rupert Lywood
Producer: Peter Fudakowski
Screenplay: Gavin Hood, based on the novel by Athol Fugard
Cinematography: Lance Gewer
Editor: Megan Gill
Production Designer: Emelia Weavind
Sound: Shaun Murdoch
Music: Paul Hepker, Mark Kilian
Principal Cast: Presley Chweneyagae, Terry Pheto, Kenneth Nkosi, Mothusi Magano, Zenzo Ngqobe

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