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WJEC GCSE Film Studies Paper 2 Exploring Film Outside Hollywood: Tsotsi

Rob Miller | Thursday January 23, 2014

Categories: GCSE, WJEC GCSE, Analysis, Film Analysis, Films & Case Studies, World Cinema, Tsotsi, Genres & Case Studies, Crime, Drama, Hot Entries, Key Concepts, Audience, Film Language, Representation


  • Tsotsi Opening Sequence
  • Tsotsi End Sequence

Further Reading

  • Studying Tsotsi: Judith Gunn (Auteur Publishing)


  • Best Foreign Language Film - 2006 Academy Awards

Institutional Factors and Representation of People, Places, Events and Issues

Tsotsi (urban slang – thug) is a film based on a novel by Athol Fugard set in the impoverished township of Soweto, Johannesburg in South Africa – Fugard is best known for his plays with political narratives opposing the historical South African system of Apartheid but wrote his only novel Tsotsi in draft form in the 1960s – he re-edited and published the book in 1980. The book explores deep-rooted racism, abject poverty and brooding violence and also issues of corruption and redemption that the film stays faithful to. Crucially however, the film is placed in contemporary post Apartheid (2005) while the book is set in a politically troubled, fundamentally racist South Africa of the 1950s/60s. This is the time Nelson Mandela was active in leading the sometimes violent fight against oppression leading to his life prison sentence in 1964. Apartheid ended in 1994 when Mandela began his tenure as the first black President of South Africa.

click on image to enlarge

The film tells the story of six days in the life of Tsotsi (David), a young street thug who steals a car only to find there is a baby in the back seat (he shoots and paralyses the mother) after getting involved in a murder during a mugging. He has grown up with other homeless children hiding for shelter in large construction pipes – Tsotsi’s mother was dying of AIDS when the young Tsotsi ran away from home and he has also run away from his abusive father who is partly seen as responsible for Tsotsi’s own delinquency. In his late teens Tsotsi finds himself leading a gang whose key protagonists are Butcher, Aap and Boston. Classic, universal themes of crime and redemption are explored throughout the film in some shocking,...

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