Sudanese filmmaker Amjad Abu Alala’s beautifully realised fable of a child living with the knowledge his life will end the moment he becomes an adult is a coming-of-age tale like no other.
Condemned to an early death from birth, young Muzamil waits despairingly for the day he will turn 20 and die. His father, grief-stricken by the holy prophecy, has already abandoned him, while his mother mourns her son in the only way she knows how – to protect him from the world. Hope flickers in the Quran, which Muzamil is eventually allowed to study, and the gentle paternal friendship of Suleiman, a village elder who opens his eyes to the joys of cinema. As adulthood draws nearer for the teenager, we come to understand Muzamil’s fate is held not so much in the fear of dying, but living – a notion, neither spiritual nor secular in tone, that shrouds this haunting poem of a film.
“The visual assurance of You Will Die at Twenty is the most immediately notable element of Sudanese director Amjad Abu Alala’s accomplished feature debut. Beautifully composed and boasting the kind of sensitivity to light sources and color tonalities usually ascribed to top photographers, the film lovingly depicts the remote east-central region of Sudan as a quasi-magical place of sand, sky and the colors of the Nile… a touching, nonjudgmental depiction of people circumscribed by superstition.” — Jay Weissberg, Variety
About the Filmmaker
Amjad Abu Alala is a Sudanese director and producer. Among his short films, Studio (2012) was developed in a workshop under the supervision of Abbas Kiarostami. He currently heads the Programming Committee in the Sudan Independent Film Festival and is Sudan’s representative at the Arab Film Institute.