Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Tsotsi is not a black film

Gavin Hood has been quoted in Der Spiegel that Tsotsi is not a black film.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: But is there a difficulty in you, as a white person from a relatively affluent background, going in and making a film about black poverty? Or is that an unfair criticism?

Hood: No, it's a comment I hear all the time. And I have never found a perfect answer to it. Other than to try to say, at the risk of being controversial, "Tsotsi" isn't a black film. And I think it's kind of patronizing to constantly talk about black people, as if they are somehow so different from white people, that white people cannot understand them. This is a story about a traumatized young person. He happens to be black. But frankly he might have been Chinese in Shanghai, white in Moscow or African-American in South Central LA. I really believe that trauma is trauma. What gives the film its flavor, is its cultural specificity, but it's not what gives the film its soul. I am a story-teller working with a craft. My job is to use my craft -- which is a different thing to my race -- and tell a story well. Take someone like Ang Lee: I admire his artistry in films like "Sense and Sensibility", which is quintessentially English, or a film like "the Ice Storm", which is very American. Or a film like "Brokeback Mountain" which is about gay love, by a director, who as far as I know is heterosexual, using two actors who are heterosexual. The point is they are artists able to empathize and use their craft to tell a story, that perhaps lesser artists of whatever race or sexual orientation may not have told as well. You have to separate artistic ability from ethnic origin. Not only am I not black, I am also not a woman, therefore how can I direct women? I am also only 42, therefore how can I direct someone who's 60? So you see where the argument ends up? If you take it to its logical conclusion, I would have to walk around and point a video camera at myself. And who the hell is interested in that?

Indeed. Indeed.


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