TIFF 2019: Our Review of ‘You Will Die at Twenty’

TIFF 2019: Our Review of ‘You Will Die at Twenty’

A holy man predicts a short life for Muzamil, a Sudanese baby. That curse affects his life as he grows into a child (Moatasem Rashid).

We can say the same when the child turns 19 (Mustafa Shehata). With one year left in his life, Muzamil must choose between religion and modernity.

There are a few commendable things about Amjad Abu Alala’s You Will Die at Twenty. It is a vibrant look at a country with minimal modern strife.

This film starts out so well with its depiction of Sudanese architecture. And with that comes its rituals, its African, mystical interpretation of Islam.

There are also quotable moments involving Muzamil’s introduction to contemporary, Western concepts. That comes in the form the village outsider, an alcoholic and cinephile.

There’s so much potential within the relationships Muzamil has among other characters. Sadly, there’s not much meat outside of the lead’s interpersonal relationships.

But there’s an aspect of the depiction of religion here that’s slightly disturbing. Muzamil decides to be the town’s best hafiz, memorizing the Qur’an’s entirety.

It’s as if the film is telegraphing a way that Muzamil will die. And this foreshadowing leaves a bad impression, despite of later left turns.

And sure, there are many interesting films where audiences know the ending. This film doesn’t handle that trajectory well since nobody decides to fight fate.

Muzamil is a character who transfigures but the script doesn’t let him grow. There’s also a scene near the end that ruins any sympathy for him.

For more information on You Will Die at Twenty go to https://www.tiff.net/events/you-will-die-at-twenty.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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