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You Will Die at Twenty


Stars: Mustafa Shehata, Islam Mubarak, Bonna Khalid, Mahmoud Maysara Elsaraj, Amal Mustafa, Talal Afifi

Director: Amjad Abu Alala

This award-winning, exquisitely shot Sudanese film is also something of a one-trick pony. For we spend the entire movie wondering whether our teenage hero will succumb to a prophecy and, in fact, die at 20.

don't expect much of a resolution.

At the baby Muzamil's naming ceremony, a dervish counts the years of the boy's life, but unexpectedly collapses at 20, eyes rolling. The presiding sheikh decrees that the boy is doomed to die at that age. While his mother (Mubarak) grieves, it is all too much for the father, who leaves for a life of travel, working in Libya, Kenya and Senegal.

Muzamil endures a miserable childhood in his home village - the other kids call him 'Son of Death' - apart from his friendship with childhood sweetheart Naima (Khalid). Growing up, however, Muzamil (now Shehata) is allowed to go to the mosque - he memorises the Koran in two languages - and is befriended by dissolute 'outsider' Sulaiman (Elsaraj), who lives 'in sin' with his mistress, but introduces the youth to cinema.

As he nears 20, Naima is betrothed to another, and Muzamil despairs...

Although strongly acted, the film is quite slow, as perhaps befits the pace of village life. There is much chanting.

David Quinlan

Sudan/France/Egypt 2019. UK Distributor: New Wave Films. Colour (unspecified).
102 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 14 Nov 2021