You Will Die at Twenty is a rare feature from Sudan, made under tense conditions. The first feature for director Amjad Abu Alala, based on a short story, the film was made in Sudan during the Sudanese Revolution. Since there was no real film industry in Sudan, Abu Alala had to rely on outside resources (it's hard to pin down, but at least five production companies and eight producers were involved).
Which would be interesting trivia but nothing more, if the film wasn't good. And it's much more than good, the story of a mother who is told by an elder that her newborn baby, Muzamil, will die at 20. Whether we in the audience believe this premonition is irrelevant ... most of the village thinks it's true, and as we watch Muzamil grow, we see the burden this brings upon him and his mother. Those burdens are real, even if we find them misguided. Abu Alala doesn't choose a side. He respects the religious beliefs of the villagers but also shows us the impossible restraints those beliefs impose on Muzamil. The end of the movie is gently ambiguous.
Islam Mubarak is quietly powerful as the mother, while Moatasem Rashed and Mustafa Shehata shine as the young Muzamil and the teenager he becomes. The film is gorgeous to look at (Sébastien Goepfert is the cinematographer). Nothing we see on the screen reflects the difficult conditions under which is was made, and it most definitely does not look like a debut feature.