“You Will Die at 20”: Twenty Years to Learn Freedom

In a small Sudanese village, a
child with a curse tries to grow up despite superstitions

As a woman brings her newborn baby to be blessed by an old imam, a dervish in a trance suddenly passes out, supposedly announcing that a terrible threat is hanging over the child and that he has not that twenty years to live. Abandoned by her husband, the mother will sink into a sort of perpetual melancholy and raise her son as best he can. After a childhood spent away from all danger, the ultra-protected boy will turn into a teenager obsessed with religion and the rigorous application of his laws. Until the day when a meeting will shake up his certainties …

From the outset, this first film by Amjad Abu Alala (and the first Sudanese fiction in 40 years!) Announces that it will not be just an exotic curiosity valid especially for its documentary qualities and its teachings on a culture whose subtleties do not we are not familiar with. The film is very interesting in this, but it is above all obvious, from the first moments, that the feature film also has very beautiful ideas of cinema to put forward. No grandiloquence, but small subtle details, editing or sound effects that immediately show the talent of the filmmaker. It is, for example, a plan which acts as an ellipse on a mother who counts the years of her child’s life by writing bars on a wall and which the montage connects with the face of the older boy. Or even, himself who listens to the hearts of people and whose beats suddenly invade the soundtrack. Full of little pearls, clever framing using the decorations and light sources wonderfully, color games, anxiety-inducing camera movements, sounds or music that create a heavy atmosphere and push the film to the edge of the fantastic .

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A very measured foray into the genre that amplifies the mystical side of the work and highlights the importance of religious rituals, beliefs and superstitions for people in remote regions of the world. As in this small village in the Aljazira region where people ask when seeing images of cinema, if “is it real? ” Very beautiful scene, moreover, where the author shares with the spectator his own first cinematic emotions. Sensations that we guess quite strong at the sight of the imprint they left on the director. Because for a first try, Amjad Abu Alala still demonstrates a fairly impressive mastery of cinematic language. Of its grammar of course, as seen above, but also in terms of writing, rendering of the passage of time, mastering the balance between the narrative and dialogue scenes and the others more contemplative.

The director is brilliant even in the choice and direction of the actors. All are convincing and for each one, the director captures something from their eyes, an intensity that marks the mind for a long time, although no face is known.

Intensity is perhaps the word that best sums up this wonderful discovery. Intensity of words, images, music and interpretation …

The film is in competition at the Friborg Festival, the “home list of which” of the international jury (who saw the films at home) will be revealed on Sunday evening March 29. It was also due to be released on April 1 on French-language screens, but rather than postponed, it is now available on the streaming platform. filmingo.ch.

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