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You Will Die at 20(ستموت في العشرين)

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Sudan, France, Egypt · 2020
1h 43m
Director Amjad Abu Alala
Starring Islam Mubark, Mahmoud Elsaraj, Bunna Khalid, Talal Afifi
Genre Drama

Shortly after Muzamil was born, a prophecy by the holy man of the village predicts that he will die at age 20. Muzamil's father cannot stand the curse and leaves his wife Sakina to raise their son alone. When his overprotective mother finally lets him study the Quran, Muzamil finds friends, love, and temptation and must decide for himself what it means to be alive.

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What are people saying?

Jackson Kosmacki Profile picture for Jackson Kosmacki

Moving, elegiac, and unflinching, this is a film that uses its tragic premise to find hope amid an unrelenting torrent of hardship and ill luck. The prophecy at the core of the narrative can be seen as an allegory perhaps for the newly independent nation, which saw its revolution during the production of this very movie, in the rebirth that comes. Muzamil was kept confined for his entire life, counting the days with notches on the walls of his austere room, but his curiosity leads him to befriend a neighbor whose reputation as an alcoholic and womanizer leads Muzamil's mother to forbid him from seeing the man. But see him he does, and in so doing, Muzamil learns of things they never taught at the mosque, or at home, or in the Quran, which he has been memorizing in its entirety. Muzamil is introduced to cinema, and thus to the world beyond his village, as the neighbor shows him footage of Khartoum, Egypt, the Mediterranean, and eventually, the first movie Muzamil has ever seen. The man also introduces somewhat radical ways of thinking that influence Muzamil's subconscious desires to break free and join the world that he has been kept from. The parallel's to the 30 years of autocracy under President al-Sharif are clear in Muzamil's confinement, in the censorship of ideas, in the devotion to religious dogmatism, in memorization rather than free thought, and in such outside influences as cinema, which was censored so heavily under al-Sharif that almost all cinemas across Sudan have been closed for years. One particular suggestion that the neighbor imparts to Muzamil is to "start sinning", for he has spent his whole life appealing to Allah for forgiveness of his sins, yet has never done anything that would be considered a sin. Muzamil's choice of what to do with the advice leads to a disturbing moment that deeply complicates Muzamil's characterization, one that I still wrestle with long after watching the film. Amjad Abu Alala's direction is nevertheless flawless, artistic and stylish but never flashy. The handling of camera and subject is measured, calculated, executed with finesse. There is such a care and tenderness toward the characters, even ones whose behavior might be quite unsympathetic. It would have been easy with this premise to paint in broad, heavy strokes, casting obvious illustrations of right and wrong onto the screen, but the moral ambivalence and pursuit of questions without definite answers is what deepens the complexity of the film and enables it to achieve a powerful sense of truth.

What are critics saying?


Los Angeles Times by Carlos Aguilar

A vibrant and transfixing revelation, You Will Die at 20 is as novel a vision as we may see this year. From its meaningful ideas on the here and the hereafter, its lesson for Muzamil is that after perishing a rebirth may follow.


The Film Stage by Glenn Heath Jr.

Set in a remote Sudanese village where religion and prophecy are valuable currencies, You Will Die at Twenty beautifully examines misguided notions of faith.

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