Life in Sudan isn’t easy at the best of times, but the ongoing military coup highlights just how fragile human rights and democracy remain in the north-east African country. With an economy driven by oil production, there’s much to fight over, but any profits are only shared by the few. As is the case in much of the continent, progress travels at different speeds. Many rural areas still hold-fast to traditional beliefs and superstitions. This is at the heart of You Will Die at Twenty.
Muzamil (Moatasem Rashed and Mustafa Shehata) comes from a religious Sufi village near the River Nile. At his naming ceremony, the local sheik prophesises that he’s cursed to die at the age of twenty. His mother (Islam Mubarak) responds by being overprotective of her son while his father eventually can’t stand it anymore and leaves. His life changes when he meets Suleiman, (Mahmoud Elseraj), a cinematographer who opens his eyes to a whole new world.
You Will Die at Twenty is a modern parable where tradition and progression collide to produce an almost mystical drama. Beautifully shot, jad Abu Alala’s film is assuredly done, with both the cast and the script imbuing the tale with a sense of authenticity and a kind of heightened mystery. It feels timeless in a way, with a portion of Sudanese society still holding the same beliefs for thousands of years. You Will Die at Twenty spins an intelligent and affecting yarn in complex hues.
You Will Die at Twenty opens in UK cinemas on 12 November.