nullIt first got my attention when it premiered at the Venice Film Festival last fall, as a 28th Critics’ Week sidebar selection (in total, 8 feature film debuts, including seven world premieres from Europe, South America and Africa). 

Titled Salvation Army (L’Armée du salut), the Moroccan drama comes from writer/director Abdellah Taïa

The film is based on Abdellah’s own autobiographical novel of the same name, which caused a stir in his native Morocco (although he’s lived in France in a self-imposed exile since 1998), when he announced plans to adapt his novel to film, 2 years ago.

This move was widely seen in Morocco as exasperating and daring in a conservative society that apparently wasn’t ready for what’s been described as an honest, thorough and detailed novel (and film) about a gay Moroccan man.

Taïa, said to be the first Moroccan writer to announce his homosexuality in his autobiography, also stars in the film, playing himself.

Here’s how the novel is described:

Salvation Army is a coming-of-age novel that tells the story of Taïa’s life with complete disclosure–from a childhood bound by family order and latent (homo)sexual tensions in the poor city of Salé, through an adolescence in Tangier charged by the young writer’s attraction to his eldest brother, to a disappointing arrival in the Western world to study in Geneva in adulthood. In so doing, Salvation Army manages to burn through the author’s first-person singularity to embody the complex mélange of fear and desire projected by Arabs on Western culture. Recently hailed by his native country’s press as “the first Moroccan to have the courage to publicly assert his difference,” Taïa, through his calmly transgressive work, has “outed” himself as “the only gay man” in a country whose theocratic law still declares homosexuality a crime.

The film adaptation made its World Premiere during Venice Critics Week last fall, which ran in cooperation with The National Union of Italian Film Critics.

It will screen at the 2014 New Directors/New Films festival (its USA premiere), a co-presentation of Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern Art here in NYC.

No trailer to look at yet for Salvation Army (L’Armée du salut). But a clip from the film has surfaced, and is embedded below, given audiences a glimpse at what’s coming: