Oscar Directors: Hood, Gavin–Tsotsi, Best Foreign Language Film

Gavin Hood’s Tsotsi, based on an Athol Fugard novel, won the Oscar Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2006 after winning the Audience Award at the 2005 Edinburgh Film Fest and the People’s Choice Award at the 2005 Toronto Film Fest.

After graduating with a degree in law in South Africa, Hood worked briefly as an actor before heading to the US to study screenwriting and directing at UCLA.

In 1993, he won a Diane Thomas Screenwriting Award for his first screenplay, “A Reasonable Man.” The script was inspired by a case of ritual murder. Judges included Spielberg, Michael Douglas and Kathleen Kennedy.

After completing his studies, Hood returned to South Africa where he got his first writing and directing work making educational dramas for the new Department of Health which was just beginning to feel the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. For his work in educational television, Hood won one Artes Award (a South African Emmy) and was nominated for another. In 1998 he made his 35mm film directing debut with a 22-minute-short called “The Storekeeper.” The film went on to win thirteen international film festival awards including the Grand Prize at the Melbourne International Film Festival in Australia, which qualified the film for Academy Award consideration in 1998.

“The Storekeeper” paved the way for Hood’s low budget feature debut, A Reasonable Man, which he wrote, directed, co-produced (with Paul Raleigh) and starred in opposite Academy Award nominee Sir Nigel Hawthorne. At the All Africa Film Awards in 2001, Hood won Best Actor, Best Screenwriter and Best Director. At the 2000 Sundance Film Festival, he was named by Variety as one of their “Ten Directors To Watch.”

Hood next directed a children’s epic adventure based on the novel In Desert and Wilderness by Polish Nobel prize-winning author Henryk Sienkiewicz. Although the film was set in Africa where Hood grew up, it had to be made in Polish. Grabbing a chance to shoot on Super 35mm, Hood took the job, working with a Polish translator. On release, the film became the highest grossing film in Poland for the year and won Best of the Fest at the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival in 2002.

In 2007, Hood directed the political thriller “Rendition” for New Line.