• Golden Globe Awards

You Will Die at 20 (Sudan)

You Will Die At 20 is the first Sudanese live-action movie since 1989 when the Islamist government suppressed much of public cultural life in that country. So it is not a surprise that it revolves around the devastating impact of religious beliefs on society.
A debut of Dubai-based Sudanese director, Amjad Abu Al Alaa, the film tells the story of Muzamil, whose mother takes him to a Sofi sheik to bless him when he is born. After a religious ceremony, the Sheik tells the mother that her child will die at 20. “God’s command is inevitable,” the old man says when she begs him to change his mind.
Overwhelmed by sadness, the father deserts the family and travels abroad, knowing that his son will never reach manhood. Meanwhile, the overprotective mother doesn’t let Muzamil leave home or even go to school hoping against hope that she may stave his inevitable fate. So Muzamil grows knowing his fate, and is taunted by other kids as the “son of death.” Soon, he rebels against his mother’s protectiveness; he wants to have a life regardless of its brevity. So she sends him to a sheik to learn the Quran, and he ends up memorizing the holy book.
Muzamil’s life takes a turn when he gets a job at a village shop and starts delivering alcohol to a worldly cynic, called Sulaiman, who has just arrived from abroad. Sulaiman introduces him to the cinema, showing him movies that open a window to a distant world filled with sinful pleasures. Mozamel is torn between his celestial faith and Solaiman’s terrestrial seductions. The latter encourages him to confront his religious convictions, describing the Sheik’s ominous prophecy as madness, and urges him to live his life and try its sins. Initially, Muzamil calls him Satan and severs his relationship with him. But as his professed end nears, he relents to Sulaiman’s persuasion and decides to taste the illicit pleasures of life.
Inspired by the short Sudanese story, “Sleeping at The Foot of The Mountain,” Abu Al Alaa wanted to explore his people’s perspective on death and study the conflicting aspects of Sufism, a beautiful spiritual philosophy that becomes a brutal system of oppression in the hands of a narrow-minded authority.
Interestingly, Muzamil could easily be a metaphor for the Sudanese people, who were subjected to a strict form of Sharia law for nearly thirty years until a couple of years ago, when they revolted against their Islamist government, giving rise to a secular system, which has revived Sudanese culture, fashion and art.
You Will Die at 20 premiered at the 76the Venice Film Festival, where it scooped the Lion of The Future award. It swept more awards from several other festivals as it traveled around the world.