Moroccan Film to Feature First Gay Protagonist in Arab Cinema
September 20, 2013 by HRC staff
Post submitted by Karim, HRC Global Engagement Intern
Writer and director, Abdellah Taia, became a public sensation in 2006 in his native Morocco when he became the first Moroccan to publicly coming out. Taia is making headlines once again in Morocco by directing his debut film, Salvation Army, which will feature the first gay protagonist in Arab cinema.
The film is an adaptation of his eponymous novel, which is based on Taia’s own life as a gay Moroccan youth growing up in poverty. The first part focuses on Taia’s childhood in Morocco, where he was one of nine siblings. Even from young age, the protagonist struggled with his sexuality in a society where homosexual behavior is forbidden yet practiced secretly. In the second half of the film, Taia is able to finally leave Morocco for Geneva, where he experiences freedom for the first time and achieves his dreams of becoming a writer and a filmmaker.
Taia, who currently resides in Paris, France, had to risk returning to Morocco, where homosexuality is criminalized, in order to film Salvation Army. Nevertheless, Taia claims that his earlier literary success enabled him to discuss homosexuality, which is taboo for the rest of Moroccan society. “I do go to Morocco and they do allow me to enter,” said Taia in a phone interview with the Huffington Post from Venice, where his film premiered in the Venice Film Festival. “If they do something to me, it is a risk for them, too."
According to Taia, the struggle for individual rights and freedom in the Arab Spring has created a “climate of change” in the Arab World that has even affected the LGBT community. Taia hopes that his movie will also serve as a catalyst for change in the region, encouraging more LGBT individuals to acknowledge and accept their sexuality. “Maybe this film will help some gay and lesbian Arab people face reality and have some support. I think this is the right time as well to free homosexuals in the Arab world and not forget that they are Arabs as well.”