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Academy Award winner 'Tsotsi' to be screened March 15

Barry McNamara
MONMOUTH, Ill. – The first film in Monmouth College’s Public Philosophy and Film Series recently won an Academy Award.

That distinction is also held by the next film in the series, Tsotsi, which will be shown at 6 p.m. March 15 in the Barnes Electronic Classroom on the lower level of Hewes Library. Free and open to the public, the screening of the film will be introduced by Monmouth faculty member Michael Nelson, who will also lead a post-film discussion.

The College’s new film series was organized by Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies Ermine Algaier.

Like Get Out, which earlier this month won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, Tsotsi was honored with an Oscar, receiving the 2006 award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Tsotsi follows a young gangster living on the edges of Johannesburg, South Africa. During a carjacking, he unexpectedly finds a 3-month-old baby in the back of the car. This unsettles his life as he decides to try to care for the baby himself.

“This is a chance for viewers to think about South Africa in a way they don’t normally think,” said Nelson, who suggested the film to Algaier for the series. “Many people just think about South Africa as Nelson Mandela and don’t go beyond that. This film provides an opportunity to get a sense of the culture of South Africa.”

Nelson saw Tsotsi when it came out in 2005. Now, more than a decade later, he said he views it through a different lens.

“The film definitely stokes emotions,” he said. “There’s a pull for younger audiences who are figuring out their place in the world. The first time I saw it, I was younger, but now that I’m a parent, it affects me in a different way.”

Nelson said the film addresses the issue of “decency – what it means to be decent” – as well as South Africa in a post-apartheid world and a “deep despair that hasn’t been resolved.”

Also of note is the film’s soundtrack, which features the Kwaito-style of music by the performer Zolo, who also acts in the film.

“Kwaito is their version of gangster rap,” said Nelson.

Links between economic and racial inequality are also explored, said Nelson.

“Students can take lessons from the film on the power of the institution – how institutions shape the lives of everyone,” he said. “Obviously, apartheid did that.”

The final film in the series, Fight Club, will be shown April 19.