Redeeming the Gangster: Tsotsi and Boy Called Twist
Nearly twenty years ago, two South Africans managed to raise funds and subvert the surveillance of the apartheid government in order to make a film that, for many years, could be seen only on alternative and informal circuits. The film was called Mapantsula (directed by Oliver Schmitz, co-written by Schmitz and lead actor Thomas Mogotlane,1988) and came to be highly regarded, both for its account of a gangster gaining political consciousness and for its skilled cinematic storytelling. The cost of the gangster’s newfound political commitment was, implicitly in this film, death at the hands of the police. More recently, Boy Called Twist (2004), adapted from Dickens’s novel by Tim Greene, and the Academy-award-winning Tsotsi (2005), adapted from Athol Fugard’s novel by Gavin Hood, have presented stories of gangsters against the post-apartheid landscape of South Africa. The nature of redemption for the protagonists takes colour from an attempt -- partly through narrative, partly through compelling filmic aesthetics -- to sustain the hope of a new world, a new South Africa, in spite of poverty, disease, violence, and class stratification. The paper will explore the two films’ approach both to adaptation and to genre and contextualise these approaches in terms of the current social crises faced in the country.
Keywords: South African Film, Adaptation, Gangster Films, Violence, Aesthetics
Dr Lesley Glen Marx
Associate Professor, Department of English and