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Film Futures: Tsotsi

by Paul Curzon, Queen Mary University of London

Computer Scientists and digital artists are behind the fabulous special effects we see in today's movies, but for a bit of fun we look at how movie plots could change if they involved Computer Scientists.


The Ocsar winning film Tsotsi follows a week in the life of a ruthless Soweto township gang leader who calls himself Tsotsi (township slang for 'thug'). Having clawed a feral existence together from childhood in extreme urban deprivation he has lost all compassion. After a violent car-jacking, he finds he has inadvertently kidnapped a baby. What follows, to the backing of raw "Kwaito" music, is his chance for redemption...

Introducing new technology does not always have just the effect you intended ...

In our computer science film future version the baby is still kidnapped, but luckily has wealthy parents, so wasn't born in the township and was chipped with a rice-sized device injected under the skin at birth. It both contains identity data and can be tracked for life using GPS technology. The police are waiting as Tsotsi arrives back at the township having followed his progress walking across the scrubland with the baby.

Tsotsi doesn't get a chance to form a bond with the baby, so doesn't have a life-changing experience. There is no opportunity for redemption. Instead on release from jail he continues on his violent crime spree with no sense of humanity whatsoever.