Imagine being told you were condemned to die at 20. It’s not exactly the case, but the notion hits very close to home for many people living in Sudan. It’s also the premise of Amjad Abu Alala’s feature debut ‘You Will Die at Twenty’, the film that just snagged the top prize at the El Gouna Film Festival.
The film explores the struggles of protagonist Muzamil as he attempts to navigate life after a sheikh’s prophecy declared that he will die at the age of 20. Muzamil is given the choice between studying the Quran, or just enjoying his life in other ways ahead of its inevitable end.
“The film is not saying exactly what is right or what is wrong,” Alala told Variety. “The film is just telling Muzamil: You need to decide. You don’t need to let the holy man or your mother or your society decide. You need to live your life.”
But above all, Alala dedicated his film to the Sudanese people, describing it as a “call to freedom”. The film comes after mass protests led to the historic ousting of long-time dictator Omar Al Bashir.
The film’s win sets a revolutionary tone for the film festival, which was established in 2017, as Egypt is home to millions of Sudanese migrants who are very often subjected to racial discrimination.
Just a few months ago, a sketch where an Egyptian comedian wore blackface and mocked Sudanese people made headlines due to a public outcry, and that’s just one example.
‘You Will Die at Twenty’ also received the Lion of the Future Award for Best Debut Feature at the 76th Venice International Film Festival (and was the first Sudanese film to win an award in the festival’s history).