×

Alala’s Debut ‘Twenty’ Explores Struggles in Sudan

When a prophecy from a traveling sheik portends that a young Sudanese boy will die at the age of 20, he and his mother are faced with the difficult task of navigating the space between coming of age and confronting the end.

You Will Die at Twenty” is the feature directorial debut of Sudanese filmmaker Amjad Abu Alala. The film will make its North American debut in the Contemporary World Cinema section of the Toronto Intl. Film Festival Monday. Pyramide Intl. is handling world sales. The film won the Lion of the Future award at the just-wrapped Venice Film Festival.

Alala, who was born and raised in Dubai, based the script on a short story by the Egyptian writer Hammour Ziada. The film was also inspired by Alala’s own experiences in Sudan, where he spent five years as a child. “I think my relationship to Sudan, my memory and my childhood — it’s all there,” he said.

You Will Die at Twenty” explores the struggles of young Muzamil (played first by Moatasem Rashid and as a teen by Mustafa Shehata) to make the most of his short time on earth, torn between the counsel of religious leaders to study the Koran and the advice of a hedonistic father figure to enjoy what little time he has.

“The film is not saying exactly what is right or what is wrong,” said Alala. “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.”

The director called “You Will Die at Twenty” “a call to freedom” for the people of Sudan, who earlier this year ousted strongman Omar al-Bashir after nearly three decades of authoritarian rule. The movie’s dedication is “for all the victims of the Sudanese Revolution.”

“I wanted to give them this,” said Alala.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Jonathan Van NessLos Angeles Beautycon, Portrait

    Jonathan Van Ness Reveals HIV Diagnosis, Former Drug Addiction

    “Queer Eye’s” Jonathan Van Ness is getting vulnerable in his new memoir “Over the Top.” In a preview of his book with the New York Times, Van Ness opened up about his early struggles with sex and drug addiction as well as his experience with sexual assault, revealing that he was abused by an older [...]

  • 4127_D022_00003_RC(l-r.) Elizabeth McGovern stars as Lady

    Box Office: 'Downton Abbey' Dominating 'Ad Astra,' 'Rambo' With $31 Million Opening

    “Downton Abbey” is heading for a positively brilliant opening weekend after scoring $13.8 million in domestic ticket sales on Friday. If estimates hold, the feature film version of the popular British television show should take home approximately $31 million come Sunday, marking the biggest opening ever for distributor Focus Features and beating previous record holder [...]

  • Gully Boy to represent India in

    'Gully Boy' to Represent India In Oscars Race

    The Film Federation of India has chosen Zoya Akhtar’s “Gully Boy” as its entry in the Academy Awards’ international feature film category. The picture, a coming of age tale about an aspiring rapper in Mumbai’s Dharavi slum premiered at the Berlin film festival in February before opening to a wave of acclaim at home in [...]

  • Lucy-Lost

    Cartoon Forum: 30th Anniversary, Little Giants and New Generations

    TOULOUSE, France –  Celebrating its 30th anniversary, Cartoon Forum wrapped Sept. 19 having showcased the ever-growing strength of European animation. 85 projects were pitched from 24 countries at the co-production forum platform that played host to north of 1,000 investors, distributors and producers – a record number. Falling on French-speaking Belgium – Wallonie-Bruxelles – whose [...]

  • Renee Zellweger Rufus Wainwright Sam Smith

    Renée Zellweger: Judy Garland Was 'My Childhood Hero'

    Awards buzz is building around Renée Zellweger for her performance as Judy Garland, emerging as a frontrunner in the Oscar race for best actress. But for her, the real prize was paying tribute to Garland, of whom she’s been a lifelong fan. “Nobody was prettier, nobody sang prettier…the adventures she had, [she was] my childhood [...]

  • Topic Studios

    Layoffs Hit Topic Studios as TV Division Relocates to West Coast (EXCLUSIVE)

    A small round of layoffs has hit Topic Studios this week in the television division, insiders familiar with the company told Variety. One of the insiders said three executives at the New York-based producer and distributor are out: senior vice president of scripted programming and Viacom alum Lisa Leingang, vice president of development Mona Panchal [...]

  • 'Downton Abbey' Music Gets 'Bigger, Better,

    As 'Downton Abbey' Hits the Silver Screen, the Music, Too, Gets 'Bigger, Better, Grander'

    When “Downton Abbey” fans hear that familiar strings-and-piano theme, a Pavlovian response ensues: Get to the television immediately, because you don’t want to miss a minute of the addictive Crawley family melodrama to follow. This week, with the “Downton Abbey” movie reaching theaters on Friday, fans can’t wait for their fix of Lady Mary and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content