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Published On: December 28, 2020 11:28 AM NPT By: Associated Press

A Sudan in transition presents first-ever film for Oscars

A Sudan in transition presents first-ever film for Oscars


Nearly two years after the overthrow of autocrat Omar al-Bashir, Sudan is taking steps to rejoin the international community from which it was long shunned. That includes its film industry.

For the first time in its history, Sudan has a submission for the Academy Awards. Produced by a consortium of European and Egyptian companies but with a Sudanese director and cast, “You Will Die at Twenty” will compete in the Best International Feature Film category.

The story follows a young man whose death at the age of 20 is prophesied not long after his birth, casting a shadow over his formative years, and parallels the burdens placed on a generation of Sudan’s young people.

Based on a short story by Sudanese novelist Hammour Ziyada, critics say it demonstrates that the country’s cultural scene is reawakening after decades of oppression.

The film was produced amid mass demonstrations against al-Bashir, who was toppled by the military in April 2019 after ruling the country for nearly 30 years.

“It was an adventure,” filmmaker Amjad Abu Alala told The Associated Press. “There were protests in the streets that had grown to a revolution by the beginning of filming.”

Sudan’s uprising erupted in late 2018, and as the number of people in the streets swelled, many of them young, the military stepped in and toppled the Islamist president. Since then, the country has embarked on a fragile transition to democracy, ending years of theocratic rule that limited artists’ freedoms.

The film’s submission was announced in November by the country’s ministry of culture, a month before the second anniversary of the start of the uprising.

It follows a narrative written by Ziyada in the early 2000s that chronicles the life of a child in 1960s in a remote village, located between the Blue and White Nile rivers. The inhabitants are largely guided by ancient Sufi beliefs and traditions, a mystical strain of Islam.

The film starts when a mother, Sakina, takes her newborn boy to a Sufi ceremony at a nearby shrine as a blessing. As a sheikh gives his blessing, a man in traditional clothing performs a meditative dance, suddenly stopping after 20 turns, falling to the ground — a bad omen.

The frightened mother appeals to the Sheikh to give an explanation. But he says, “God’s command is inevitable.” At this point, the crowd understands this is a prophecy predicting the child will die at 20.

Stunned and frustrated, the father leaves his wife and son, named Muzamil, to face their fate alone.

Omar_al-Bashir, Sudan, Oscars,

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