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<i>Tsotsi</i> gets a huge welcome

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters): Cheering fans thronged the streets of one of South Africa's toughest slums on Sunday to welcome home the makers of the country's Oscar-winning film ''Tsotsi'', which depicted the harsh realities of township life.

Gripping the golden Oscar statue, director Gavin Hood, star Presley Chweneyagae and other cast and crew members paraded through Alexandra township near Johannesburg in an open-top bus after a rapturous welcome at the airport on their arrival from Los Angeles.''Thank you so much for the massive support,'' Hood said at a news conference yesterday. ''The world is very excited by South Africa, and by 'Tsotsi'.'' ''Tsotsi'' (''Gangster'') won this year's Academy Award for best foreign-language film, boosting hopes that Hollywood's stamp of approval will bolster South Africa's nascent film industry.

Filmed in township slang, a mixture of South Africa's 11 official languages, "Tsotsi'' is the tale of a township gangster played by Chweneyagae who steals a car and shoots its owner, only to discover a baby is in the back seat.The film takes the protagonist, himself an AIDS orphan, on a journey of redemption as he discovers the value of human life.Tsotsi's Oscar triumph follows a string of high-profile successes for South African films including last year's Oscar-nominated ''Yesterday'' about a woman with HIV and ''U-Carmen eKhayelitsha'', a remake of the opera Carmen in the tongue-clicking Xhosa language.

Unlike many South African films, ''Tsotsi'' has also proved a box-office hit at home, drawing real-life gangsters to cinemas from the townships as well as art-house film aficionados from the smart suburbs of Johannesburg and Cape Town.Producers say the film has earned more than 3.5 million rand (570,000 dollars) at the box office in South Africa, outperforming recent Africa-themed hits such as ''Hotel Rwanda'' and ''The Constant Gardener''.

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