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South Africa cheers first Oscar win for Tsotsi

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Monday, March 06, 2006

LOS ANGELES (Reuters): South Africa celebrated its first Oscar award for gangster film ''Tsotsi'' today, raising hopes a revival in local film-making would get a further spark.

Cast members and supporters erupted into cheers at a local hotel in the early hours before dawn, watching on live TV as ''Tsotsi'' scooped the Oscar for best foreign language film.

''I think it's fantastic, it's an amazing experience for South Africa and I am so proud to be part of this country, part of this nomination,'' said one woman at the party.

The award for ''Tsotsi'', set in a Johannesburg shantytown, was especially sweet after hopes were crushed last year when South Africa lost out on its first nomination in the category, ''Yesterday''. ''Yesterday'' was a poignant story of a woman's battle with AIDS and the first feature film made in Zulu.

Anant Singh, coproducer of ''Yesterday'', cheered the ''Tsotsi'' victory.

''It is fantastic that after many years of isolation, South Africa had had Oscar nominations in consecutive years with 'Tsotsi' this year and 'Yesterday' last year,'' he said.

''This sends out a clear message to the world that the South African film industry has come of age.'' The award would inspire other South African filmmakers, ''Tsotsi'' director Gavin Hood said backstage after accepting the award in Los Angeles.

''What we want like everybody else is just to tell our stories,'' he said. ''This hopefully encourages more South African filmmakers to just keep telling their stories.'' ''Tsotsi'' and ''Yesterday'' are among a clutch of local features amid a resurgence in the local industry, with a new multi-million dollar studio being erected in Cape Town.

Last year, a South African version of the opera ''Carmen'' took top honours at the Berlin film festival. ''U-Carmen eKhayelitsha'' places the traditional opera in a township and was made in the tongue-clicking Xhosa language.

South African-born Charlize Theron flew the flag at the Oscars in 2003 when she won best actress for her role in ''Monster''.

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