Reporters on the Job

Movie with a Janus Face: Is the Oscar-nominated movie 'Tsotsi' a drama or a comedy? Staff writer Abraham McLaughlin says that it all depends on where you see the movie about a South African gangster.

"The first time I saw "Tsotsi" [pronounced TOT-si] it was in the mostly white and wealthy northern suburbs of Johannesburg where I live," says Abe. "It was a half-black, half-white audience, but most of the folks in there were relatively wealthy - and had paid about $6.50 to see the movie. The atmosphere during the show was tense. Clearly, most of the people in this audience related to the parents of the kidnapped child portrayed in the movie.

"Wealthy people in South Africa are worried about being victims. So even though the movie is about redemption and progress in the life of a thug, it's still about a thug," he says.

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But Abe saw a different movie when he attended a showing of "Tsotsi"in a downtown Joburg cinema, where tickets cost about $1.50. "I was the only white guy in the audience. The mood was incredibly light. The movie almost seemed like a comedy. The audience was laughing with hearty familiarity at scenes of township life," he says.

In life - and in the movie - "in every gang there's always the guy who went to school - and there are other guys who are really raw," one moviegoer told Abe afterward. "Part of the movie's great appeal," says Abe, "is that it portrays township life writ large. People like seeing themselves - and their lives - on the big screen."

David Clark Scott
World editor

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