Invasion of the Baby Snatchers.
2005, South Africa
In the past few years, the profile of international cinema has really been significantly raised in the US. The success of films like City of God have shown audiences that foreign filmmakers can make American action films just as good as Tony Scott can. Consequently, everybody and their immigrant mother are making foreign films about ethnic gangs living in slums, with originally being measured by the style of the subtitles. Tsotsi is the latest of the new wave of transplanted American gangster films, coming to us from South Africa. In this film, white Afrikaans director Gavin Hood orders around a group of young, poor black actors in a violent tale of life in the ghetto, demonstrating that while South Africa may have lost the letter of the apartheid laws, they’re keeping the spirit alive.
Because no one is capable of making a gangster movie not directly influenced by Martin Scorsese, Tsotsi is a tale of redemption, following the titular Tsotsi through his attempts to rehabilitate his gangster lifestyle by stealing a baby. If I’d known child kidnapping is all it takes to make things right with karma, I would have stopped my catch and release regimen a while back. Nevertheless, confusing moral message aside, this sweet story of an urban black man taking care of a child was a surprise winner at this year’s Oscars, as the Academy generally does not reward fantasy films unless they’re about the Holocaust. The film is not without its positive qualities, however. Since the film is emblematic of the Oscars’ recent attempts to replace their voting body with the United Colors of Beneton, Tsotsi does provide ample opportunity for reactionary racist jokes that help keep American theatres focused on Hollywood movies for white football players, as evidenced above. Taken on its own terms, the film is capably made, and entirely watchable, but aside from a strong performance by Presley Chweneyagae as the lead, there’s nothing that really distinguishes this movie from its imitators, or the films it imitates. And while it’s a good movie, I still think that German movie about the Holocaust should have won.