This is a beautiful coming-of-age movie, set in post-apartheid South Africa. Brutal, but at the same time tender, it traces six days in the life of David, (played by first-timer Presley Chweneyagae) a ruthless young gang leader who finds a baby accidentally kidnapped during a car-jacking.

The title 'Tsotsi' means thug or gangster. After attempting to care for the baby himself, while he decides what to do with it, David finds a young mother, Miriam (Terry Pheto) at the communal water tap, follows her home and forces her to feed it. At first Miriam is very frightened by Tsotsi. Gradually she takes on the role of both mother to the baby and mentor to the desensitised young gangster. As their relationship tentatively progresses, David is compelled to confront his own violent nature and to reveal his past.

Shot in fantastic wide-angle hyper-real colour - accompanied by a fabulous soundtrack of edgy 'Kwaito' music, Tsotsi is an extraordinary, unsentimental portrait of ghetto life and a wonderful psychological study. There are some superb performances, particularly from Chweneyagae and Pheto.

Produced by Peter Fudakowski, the story was adapted by writer-director, Gavin Hood from a 1950's novel by South African playwright, Athol Fuggard. While the setting is grim, and the story bleak, it carries a message of redemption and hope for this generation - and the next one as well. Totsi would make an excellent film for discussion for an older youth or young adult group.LONDON - 27 March 2006 - 240 words

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