Described by Interview Magazine as a “literary transgressor and cultural paragon,” Abdellah Taïa became the first openly gay Arab writer in 2006 and remains once of the only openly homosexual Moroccan writers or filmmakers. Since his coming-out, he has become an iconic figure throughout the Arab world, and a beacon of hope in a country where homosexuality is still illegal. His 2013 film Salvation Army, now available on Dekkoo, is widely considered to have given Arab cinema its first gay protagonist.
Adapted from his own novel, itself based on his own coming-of-age, Taïa’s story concerns Abdellah (played by Said Mrini as a teen and Karim Ait M’Hand as an adult), a young gay man navigating the sexual, racial and political climate of Morocco.
Growing up in a large family in a working-class neighborhood, Abdellah is caught between a distant father, an authoritarian mother, an older brother whom he adores and a handful of predatory older men all too happy to take advantage of his sexual confusion in a society that denies his homosexuality.
As a college student, Abdellah moves to Geneva and while faced with the new possibilities of freedom, he grapples with the loss of his homeland. Both chapters in this character’s life inform one another in powerful and moving ways.