Theatrical release poster
Directed byGavin Hood
Screenplay byGavin Hood
Based onTsotsi
by Athol Fugard
Produced byPeter Fudakowski
StarringPresley Chweneyagae
CinematographyLance Gewer
Edited byMegan Gill
Music byVusi Mahlasela
Mark Kilian
Paul Hepker
The UK Film & TV Production Company PLC
Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa
The National Film and Video Foundation of SA
Tsotsi Films
Distributed bySter-Kinekor Pictures
(South Africa)
Momentum Pictures (United Kingdom)
Release dates
Running time
95 minutes
CountriesSouth Africa
United Kingdom
Budget$3 million[1]
Box office$11.5 million[1]

Tsotsi is a 2005 crime drama film written and directed by Gavin Hood and produced by Peter Fudakowski. It is an adaptation of the novel Tsotsi by Athol Fugard and is a South African/UK co-production. Set in the Alexandra slum in Johannesburg, South Africa, it stars Presley Chweneyagae as David/Tsotsi (Tsotsitaal, meaning "criminal"), a young street thug who steals a car only to discover a baby in the back seat. It also features Kenneth Nkosi, Jerry Mofokeng, and Rapulana Seiphemo in supporting roles.[2]

The soundtrack for the film features Kwaito music performed by South African artist Zola and Afro-pop group Mafikizolo, as well as a score by Mark Kilian and Paul Hepker featuring the voice of South African protest singer and poet Vusi Mahlasela.

The film received widespread critical acclaim, with praise primarily aimed at its writing, direction, and performances, particularly Chweneyagae's and Pheto's, cinematography and emotional weight. It went on to win the 2006 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and was nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film, becoming the first South African film and first African film not made in French to win the former.[3][4][5] In 2009, it was unofficially remade in Tamil as Yogi.[6]


As his mother is dying of disease, David (Benny Moshe) runs away from an abusive father and lives with other homeless children in a series of large concrete construction pipes. A few years later, David, who now goes by Tsotsi (Presley Chweneyagae), is the leader of a gang that includes his friends Butcher (Zenzo Ngqobe), Aap (Kenneth Nkosi), and Boston (Mothusi Magano).

After getting involved in a murder committed by Butcher during a mugging, Tsotsi and Boston get into a fight that leaves Boston badly injured. Tsotsi later shoots Pumla (Nambitha Mpumlwana), a young woman, while stealing her car, only to discover a three-month-old in the back seat. Tsotsi hastily strips the car of its valuables and takes the baby back to his shack. Pumla survives the attack and works with a police artist to create a composite sketch of Tsotsi's face, which is then run in the newspapers.

Realizing that he cannot properly care for the baby on his own, Tsotsi spots Miriam (Terry Pheto) with a young child strapped to her back, collecting water from a public tap. He follows her to her shack and forces her at gunpoint to feed the kidnapped child. Meanwhile, rich gang leader Fela (Zola) begins attempting to recruit Aap, Boston, and Butcher to work for him. When Tsotsi takes the child to Miriam a second time, she asks him to leave the boy with her so that she can care for him on Tsotsi's behalf, and Tsotsi agrees.

Tsotsi decides to take care of the injured Boston, and has Aap and Butcher take Boston to his shack. Boston, who is called Teacher Boy by his friends, explains that he never took the teachers' examination. Tsotsi tells him that the gang will raise the money so that Boston can take the exam, which means that they will have to commit another robbery.

Tsotsi and Aap go to Pumla's house. When Pumla's husband John (Rapulana Seiphemo) returns from the hospital, they follow him into the house and tie him up. Aap is assigned to watch John while Butcher ransacks the bedroom and Tsotsi collects items from the baby's room.

When Aap goes to raid the fridge, John activates the alarm. In a panic, Butcher attempts to kill John with John's pistol that he found. Tsotsi shoots and kills Butcher with his pistol. He and Aap escape in John's car moments before the security company arrives.

Traumatized by Tsotsi's killing of Butcher and fearing that Tsotsi will one day harm him too, Aap decides to leave the gang and quit as Tsotsi's friend. When Tsotsi goes back to Miriam's house, she reveals that she knows where he got the baby, and begs him to return the child to his parents.

Tsotsi sets off to return the baby. He reaches John's house and tells John over the intercom that he will leave the child outside the gate. Meanwhile, an officer stationed at the house alerts Captain Smit (Ian Roberts), who rushes to the scene, arriving just as Tsotsi is about to walk away.

The police train their guns on Tsotsi, ordering him to return the baby. However, John urges them to lower their weapons so that he can retrieve the baby himself. As Tsotsi holds the baby in his arms, John convinces him to give up the baby. Tsotsi emotionally hands the baby to John, then is told to put up his hands and turns himself in as the film ends.

Alternate endings

The film ends with Tsotsi raising his hands, and does not disclose what happens thereafter. Two unused endings were shot for the film, which can be seen on the Tsotsi DVD. In one, Tsotsi is shot in the shoulder, and while the officers are shocked at what happened, he escapes through a large field back to the Alexandra slums after avoiding another shot from the chief police officer. In the other, Tsotsi is shot in the chest while reaching for a milk bottle he brought. He collapses and dies while John and Pumla look on in horror.



Box office

The film opened in a limited release in North America on 24 February 2006 in 6 theatres and ultimately was shown in 122 theatres for a lifetime worldwide gross of $11.54 million.[1]

Critical response

The film received positive reviews from critics and has a "certified fresh" score of 82%[7] on Rotten Tomatoes based on 131 reviews with an average score of 7.41 out of 10. The critical consensus states: "Chweneyagae's powerful performance carries this simple yet searing tale of a shantytown teenager's redemption."[8] The film also has a score of 70 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 35 critics indicating "generally favorable reviews".[9]

Roger Ebert gave the film a four out of four star rating and stated:

How strange, a movie where a bad man becomes better, instead of the other way around. Tsotsi, a film of deep emotional power, considers a young killer whose cold eyes show no emotion, who kills unthinkingly, and who is transformed by the helplessness of a baby. He didn't mean to kidnap the baby, but now that he has it, it looks at him with trust and need, and he is powerless before eyes more demanding than his own. [...] How the story develops is for you to discover. I was surprised to find that it leads toward hope instead of despair; why does fiction so often assume defeat is our destiny?[10]

Tsotsi won the 2006 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film[11] and was nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film in 2006.[12]

Gavin Hood was also nominated for the 2005 Non-European Film – Prix Screen International at the European Film Awards for his work on the film.[13]


Soundtrack album by
Various Artists
Released16 February 2006
Hip hop
LabelMilan Entertainment
ProducerEmmanuel Chamboredon
No.TitleWriter(s)Performed byLength
1."Mdlwembe"Kabelo "Kaybee" IkanengZola4:17
2."Bhambatha"Thabiso TsotetsiZola4:22
3."Zingu 7"Kabelo "Kaybee" IkanengZola2:43
4."Matofotofo"Composed by Cleopas Monyepao, Lyrics by T. Ngeobo, S. MsimangaPitch Black Afro featuring Bravo4:52
5."Sgubhu Sam"UnathiUnathi4:10
6."Munt'Omnyama"Lyrics by T. Kgosinkwe, Additional Lyrics by T. Seate, A. MuphemiMafikizolo featuring Stoan & Jahseed from Bongo Maffin4:31
7."Palesa"Thabiso TsotetsiZola3:59
8."Seven"Kabelo "Kaybee" IkanengZola4:09
9."Ehlala"Lyrics by Bonginkosi "Zola" Dlamini, Composed by Thabiso Tsotetsi, Cleopas MonyepaoZola4:37
10."C.R.A.Z.Y"Bongani Fassie, 37 MPHIshmael featuring Bongz4:10
11."It's Your Life"Bonginkosi "Zola" Dlamini, Thabiso Tsotetsi, Cleopas MonyepaoZola4:57
12."Woof Woof"Kabelo "Kaybee" IkanengZola3:18
13."Stolen Legs"Mark Kilian, Paul HepkerMark Kilian and Paul Hepker featuring Vusi Mahlasela0:59
14."On The Tracks"Mark Kilian, Paul HepkerMark Kilian and Paul Hepker featuring Vusi Mahlasela1:11
15."Silang Mabele"Vusi MahlaselaVusi Mahlasela5:38
16."Bye Bye Baby"Mark Kilian, Paul HepkerMark Kilian and Paul Hepker featuring Vusi Mahlasela1:52
17."Baby Handover"Mark Kilian, Paul HepkerMark Kilian and Paul Hepker featuring Vusi Mahlasela1:59
18."E Sale Noka"Mark Kilian, Paul Hepker, Vusi MahlaselaVusi Mahlasela and the A-Team1:53
19."Ghetto Scandalous"Bonginkosi "Zola" Dlamini, Amu, Kabelo "Kaybee" IkanengZola4:46
Total length:1:08:15

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Tsotsi (2006) - Financial Information". The Numbers. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  2. ^ Tsotsi, retrieved 13 August 2020
  3. ^ "Oscar Win for South African Film". South Africa Travel Blog. 6 March 2006. Retrieved 13 August 2020.
  4. ^ "Tsotsi wins Academy Award | South African History Online". www.sahistory.org.za. Retrieved 13 August 2020.
  5. ^ "HuffPost is now a part of Verizon Media". consent.yahoo.com. Retrieved 13 August 2020.
  6. ^ "Ammer's inspiration from South Africa film!". behindwoods.com. 27 August 2008. Retrieved 17 January 2009.
  7. ^ "Tsotsi (Thug) – Movie Reviews – Rotten Tomatoes". rottentomatoes.com.
  8. ^ "Tsotsi (Thug)".
  9. ^ "Tsotsi".
  10. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Tsotsi Movie Review & Film Summary (2006) – Roger Ebert". rogerebert.com.
  11. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (17 March 2006). "Tsotsi". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 April 2009.
  12. ^ "Golden Globe nominations announced". Time Out. 14 December 2005. Archived from the original on 28 April 2009. Retrieved 27 April 2009.
  13. ^ Hernandez, Eugene (15 November 2005). "11 Films Vying for Best non-European film". indieWire. Retrieved 27 April 2009.