The seventh feature film in Sudanese history, You Will Die at Twenty, directed by first-time Sudanese filmmaker Amjad Abu Alala, just won Best Debut Feature award (also known as ‘Lion of the Future’) at the Venice Film Festival.

The film is based on Sudanese writer’s Hammour Ziada’s short story Sleeping at the Foot of the Mountain, which follows a young boy, Muzamil, living in a Sudanese village where he is bound by a Sufi prophecy that says he will die at 20. A cinematographer shows up at the village with an old projector, and opens up new doors for Muzamil, causing him to doubt the validity of the prophecy.

Co-written by Yusef Ibrahim and Abu Alala, and exhibiting stunning cinematography by Sébastien Goepfert, the film drew critical acclaim from critics who praised its fascinating fable-like quality and its visual sensitivity.

In Abu Alala’s acceptance speech at the festival, he recalled the days when he watched the Venice Film Festival from his home years ago, and says, “I didn’t know if I can be here, because I’m from a country that has no cinema, because we were under a regime that didn’t want to support cinema."

"I said ‘didn’t’ because we just did a revolution and we kicked it out. And we are proud. With the new government, I hope everything will be better," he added.

Official film poster for You Will Die at Twenty.

A couple of other regional films received nods at the festival, including Lebanese filmmaker Ahmad Ghossein's All this Victory, which won won three critics' awards at the Venice Critics' Week, which was happening in parallel with the Festival. 

The Verona Film Club Award, which goes to "the film deemed most innovative in the section by a jury of young film buffs who belong to one of Italy’s oldest arthouse cinema organisations," according to Variety, went to Saudi Arabian director Shahad Ameen's Scales