In a working class neighborhood in Casablanca, Abdellah, a homosexual teen, tries to build his own life within his big family, caught between an authoritarian mother and an older brother, who he adores.
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Abdellah is 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, 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. SALVATION ARMY, the directorial debut for Abdellah Taïa - an acclaimed Moroccan and Arab writer - is adapted from his novel of the same name. Taïa is the first writer of his descent to speak out openly about his homosexuality. Written by
Though adapted from an autobiography by a Moroccan writer, this is very much a French film, and quite a good one IMO. This is a gay-themed movies for grown ups. It's a film that transcends its deceptively simple storyline and it packs a wallop.
It's difficult to summarize this movie without making it sound like less than it is. It's a coming of age movie, yes, but that's just the framework for some very unusual fare.
We first meet Abdellah as a young teenager. He's at the age when it's becoming inappropriate for him to hang with his sisters and mother, and time to be with the men, though his family doesn't see him as a man yet.
Nevertheless, he's already sexually active with adult men in his Casablanca neighborhood. Though family life is a little grim, his father seems to know that his son is an object of desire and that he has crushes. Interestingly, this doesn't seem to be a big deal.
Midway the film jumps ahead to show Abdellah in very different circumstances leading a very different life. It's an abrupt change, one that startles. But it's the latter part of the movie that gives it its heft. It may be a simple story line, but it's a weighty theme.
It's worth noting that the only time we see Abdellah smile in the movie is when he is young during an encounter with a man who is perhaps six or seven years his senior. We see an exchange of emotion between two equals, despite their age difference. It's a brief scene, and neither the partner nor that feeling is shown again. I'm noting this scene because if you see the movie, you may need to be reminded that there was once a smile....
Lest you be put off by the title, a Salvation Army facility is seen briefly, but the title is a metaphor.
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