March 5, 2006

South Africa’s “Tsotsi” wins foreign language Oscar

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "Tsotsi," the South African film
about a Johannesburg shantytown thug, won the Oscar for best
foreign language film on Sunday.

Directed and written by 42-year-old Gavin Hood, the film
features a searing performance by Presley Chweneyagae as a
gun-toting, emotionally dead gangster who suddenly learns that
human life has some value when he is forced to care for a baby
he has kidnapped.

"God Bless Africa!," Hood said, upon receiving his award.
"We may have foreign language films, but our stories are the
same as your stories. They are about the human heart and

The film, distributed in North America by Walt Disney Co.,
was based on famed playwright Athol Fugard's only novel, a
1950s tale about the dehumanizing effects apartheid was having
on the lives of black South Africans.

With Fugard's permission, Hood updated the story to the
present day and made its main character a grown-up AIDS orphan.

Hood has said the changes allowed him to present the
despair of post-apartheid South Africa as well as the violence
that lurks beneath the surface. But Hood also insisted that his
aim was to tell a universal morality tale.

The other nominated films were the Italian family drama
"Don't Tell," the French war story "Joyeux Noel (Merry
Christmas)," the German World War II film "Sophie Scholl - The
Final Days," and the Palestinian film "Paradise Now."

The latter film, from director Hany Abu-Assad, was the most
controversial entry, thanks to its topical story about a pair
of suicide bombers. Some detractors charged that it humanized
terrorists, but Abu-Assad said his film examines the forces
that drive people to extreme behavior.