Here’s a simple setup for you. A new mother brings her baby boy, Muzamil, to a religious leader for a blessing. The kindly old man cradles the child and says nice things. Then, right next to them, a man repeating a prayer drops dead on the 20th recitation. That seals it, says the imam. Muzamil will die at 20.
The news shatters the family. Muzamil’s father leaves their Sudanese village, unable to cope. His mother (Islam Mubarak) sinks into a stew of misery, overprotectiveness and apathy. Educate the boy? Why bother?
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But first-time feature director Amjad Abu Alala chooses to concentrate on the boy, played by Mustafa Shehata as a – well, presumably a 19-year-old. He’s hurtling toward that fateful birth/deathday, but the movie isn’t going to do anything so crass as give us a countdown timer. Besides, his mother never answered the question he asked her a child: Does time spent in the womb count?
So we watch as Muzamil tries to make sense of his short life. He has feelings for his childhood friend Naima – and she certainly does for him – but he can’t commit. He visits the local mosque in the hopes of having this divine judgment reversed, and ends up working there, and memorizing the Quran, to the astonishment of the village.