The race to become the film submitted by South Africa to the2006 Academy Awards kicked off this week with a high profile function for GavinHood's film Tsotsi.

The makers of the film lobbied senior government and filmindustry executives at a function at Johannesburg's upmarket Melrose Arch Hotel.

Hood's film, which is in official competition atToronto and Edinburgh, is a visceral adaptation and modern-day updating ofplaywright Athol Fugard's one and only novel of the same name that waspublished in 1980.

A kind of South African City of God, the film traces six days in the life of a ruthlessyoung gang leader who inadvertently ends up taking care of a baby accidentallykidnapped during a car hijacking. It was shot in a vernacular mix of Tswana,Zulu, Afrikaans and township slang.

After Darrell James Roodt's Yesterday garnered a nomination this year the local industry iseager to get itself once again onto the coveted Oscar's foreign filmshortlist. With the recent boom in local production there are other contendersfor the country's official entry including Berlin winner u-CarmeneKhayelitsha, DvV8's township comedy Maxand Mona and Darrell James Roodt's'silent' film Faith's Corner with Yesterday star Leleti Khumalo as a homelesswoman with two young children.

The film's producers Moviworld in conjunction with theIndustrial Development Corporation (IDC), The Independent Producer'sOrganisation (IPO), distributor Ster-Kinekor and The National Film and VideoFoundation (NFVF) hosted the Johannesburg function, which was followed by ascreening of the film.

Tsotsi, which is aco-production with The UK Film & Television Company, goes on local releasein September in order to qualify for Academy consideration.