Acclaimed world cinema hit, Tsotsi is an adaptation of a novel set in Johannesberg. It tracks the redemption of its central character, Tsotsi, a mean criminal who is widely feared in his area of town, and forced to live in a shanty town after the death of his mother to AIDS. The work looks both at Tsotsi's own life and his criminal activities before exploring his own desire to change when, after a bungled car jacking, he finds himself in charge of a young baby.
Tsotsi was submitted for classification in November 2005. The defining classification issues in this work were strong language and violence, although other issues discussed included the work's theme, some nudity, animal cruelty and drug use.
Examiners noted over 30 uses of 'f**k' and its derivatives, mostly subtitled. Such levels of strong language pushed the work beyond the boundaries of 12A where BBFC Guidelines state that strong language must be infrequent. In addition examiners noted mild language such as 'bastard'.
The violence is not detailed but examiners noted the tone and impression it created being both strong and impactful in three key scenes. The calculated stabbing of a commuter in the opening scene is shocking, not least in its expression of the ruthlessness of Tsotsi's gang, and the particular sociopathic attitudes of his friend Butcher.
The scene where Tsotsi beats his friend and fellow gang member, Boston, was also discussed, with examiners stating in their reports that, despite a lack of process detail, the scene has a strong impact, particularly when the audience sees Boston's bloodied face afterwards. Later in the film there are some shots of the character's face which remains misshapen and swollen with one eye permanently closed. However, as there was no dwelling or focus on the infliction or pain and injury this was not a problem under Guidelines, given the 15 recommendation.
In addition the work has two shootings, one of which is shown with some blood detail. When Tsotsi shoots Boston the shooting itself happens offscreen. The audience sees blood spatters on another character's face and later the victim's body on the ground, with some blood forming a pool underneath him.
Though the violence is strong, and noted in the film's BBFCinsight, it lacks the sustained focus on process detail, or the sadistic infliction of pain and injury which would have placed the work at 18.
Other issues which were not noted in the BBFCinsight but were discussed included drug use, nudity and animal cruelty.
The drug use includes sight of the smoking of marijuana joints. There was no imitable detail or glamorisation of the activity so it did not affect the classification. Similarly the nudity was natural (including the sight of a woman's breast as she breastfeeds her baby) and posed no problem at the recommended category.
Finally the animal cruelty was entirely impressionistic. Approximately 40 minutes into the work there are offscreen sounds suggesting a dog being beaten by Tsotsi's father, followed by offscreen whining and then sight of the dog struggling along on the ground. As there is no sight of real animal cruelty, and given that the dog could have easily been trained to walk slowly, examiners recommended that no intervention was necessary.
The film was passed 15 with no cuts. It was also rated 15 for its video release.