Tsotsi (directed and written by Gavin Hood) is a South African film based on the 1980 novel by Athol Fugard. When the film begins, Tsotsi (played by Presley Chweneyagae) is the leader of a four-man gang in a township outside Soweto, a community of makeshift, squalid huts with high-rise buildings in the distance. Led by Tsotsi (which means thug), the gang first executes a caper by going to a market, spotting a rich Black man, following him into a crowded subway car, extracting an envelope containing money while Butcher (played by Zenso Ngqobe) inserts an icepick-shaped instrument into his heart. When the gang leaves the subway at the end of the line, their victim falls dead to the floor. Boston (played by Mathusi Magano), one of the gang, is upset that death resulted, complains to Tsotsi at a beer garden, but the latter beats him up and leaves him on the ground, bleeding and with a cut on his eye. In the next caper, Tsotsi encounters a woman in a Mercedes, forces her out of the car, drives off, and discovers that there is a baby in the back seat. He then lovingly picks up the baby and takes him home. His experience with the baby transforms him. He has to change diapers and tell his inquiring friends not to come into his hut. Spying Miriam (played by Terry Pheto), a woman carrying an infant, he follows her home, pulls a gun on her, and demands that she must feed his baby. Meanwhile, the baby’s mother is hospitalized, the car is found, and police are on the lookout for the baby and its captor. The difficulty of caring for the baby reminds Tsotsi of a traumatic experience at the age of about eight, when his abusive father killed his ailing AIDS-afflicted mother and kicked the family dog, whereupon Tsotsi became a runaway, living in one of a cluster of abandoned drainpipes. He returns to his involuntarily selected nursemaid for another feeding, but she implores him to return the baby to his mother, who now may be crippled for life. In the next caper, Tsotsi and his friends visit the house of the baby’s parents on the pretext of a robbery, but Tsotsi’s real aim is to view the baby’s bedroom. In the surprising ending, tears come to his eyes. MH

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