Shortly after Muzamil was born, the village's holy man predicts that he will die at age 20. Muzamil's father can't stand the curse and leaves home. Sakina raises her son as a single mother, overly protective. One day, Muzamil turns 19.
When searching for a blessing on the day of her firstborn child's naming ceremony, Sakina (Islam Mubarak) is instead given a curse. A travelling sheikh prophecies that her son, Muzamil (played first by Moatasem Rashed then as a teen by Mustafa Shehata), would die at the age of 20. In what is now a coming-of-death tale, a devastated Sakina is sentenced to mourn her son while he lives - an endeavor her husband could not stand to bear. Growing up under the constant loom of death, Muzamil becomes increasingly curious about what it means to live beyond his mother's confines. Encouraged by local elders, the overprotective Sakina relents and allows her son to study the Quran with the other children his age. And in this newly found freedom, Muzamil finds friends, enemies, love, and tempters, though what he truly seeks is a sense of the present and a chance at the future.Written by
Toronto International Film Festival
Death influences life in You Will Die at 20, only the eighth film in the history of Sudanese cinema. As mind-boggling as that trivia sounds, the social drama highlights the existence of superstition and blind faith in the roots of civilization in the African country of Sudan where a child born just a few days ago is thought to be cursed by a messenger of God and who prophecies that he will die the day he turns 20. The mother of the child, with her striking droopy eyes and without support from her timid husband, takes on the job of caring for her son and counting the days up to his death which she is hugely concerned about and also still very sure about. The coming-of-age container of the film then takes you through the struggle of this young boy who is outcast as the superstition lets people germinate the idea of his death into the idea of a cursed birth. The boy lives as if death is waiting for him, even wondering if his death will be by drowning and if the time he spent in his mother's womb will be counted. It's so powerful in its delivery that you gape at certain sequences, whether it is when her mother goes and scribbles on a wall at the end of a week that her son has lived a week more (because she does not have a calendar) or the time when his friends ask him to die sooner because he is going to die anyway or when the people around him think memorizing the holy book is better than learning mathematics. Bit slow in parts but always magnificent, You Will Die at 20 is a film that must be watched because Sudan has stories to tell and it needs people to hear and watch them. The main score by Amin Bouhafa is heartbreaking. TN.
(Watched and reviewed at its India premiere at the 21st MAMI Mumbai Film Festival.)
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