Venice: Arab film features gay protagonist

Published: September 4, 2013

 MILAN (AP) — Writer and director Abdellah Taia believes he has given Arab cinema its first gay protagonist in his debut film "Salvation Army."

Taia already created a sensation in his native Morocco when he became the first Moroccan to publicly acknowledge his homosexuality in 2006 and a year later appeared on the cover of a newsmagazine under the headline "Homosexual, Against All Odds."
Taia, who lives in Paris where he has published novels including "Salvation Army," on which the film was based, took a calculated risk coming out in a country where gays can face jail.
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‘I am totally aware of how this subject is taboo in the Arab world," Taia said Tuesday in a phone interview from Venice, where his film premiered in the Venice Film Festival.
But he said his literary success gives him some legitimacy to discuss the role of gays and lesbians in society. The movie was filmed on location in Morocco, despite some tensions.
"I do go to Morocco and they do allow me to enter," Taia said. "If they do something to me, it is a risk for them, too."
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