01/14/15 12:03pm
01/14/2015 12:03 PM |

Photo courtesy of Strand Releasing


Salvation Army
Directed by Abdellah Taïa
Opens January 23 at The Film Society of Lincoln Center


Whatever the breakthrough status of Abdellah Taïa’s Salvation Army—touted as Morocco’s first queer coming-of-age story—the picture’s emotional wallop arises from its startlingly minimalist notion of cinematic memory. This is a movie with nary a pan, no tracks and no zooms, and yet it plays the opposite of sclerotic, highlighting the way a passing, unremarked-upon moment in life can become an internal turning point. In adapting his autobiographical novel of same name, Taïa’s screenplay spends its first half excavating a dust-caked teenage summer, only to leap forward ten years for the second—peering with uncertainty at the man Taïa’s protagonist Abdellah (played by Said Mirini as a teenager, and Karim Ait M’Hand as an adult) has become. Before embarking on an awkward vacation with his magnetic older brother Slimane (Amine Ennaji), young Abdellah’s days in his claustrophobic hometown are spent being passed from one older man to the next—pained encounters captured with an unflinching, voyeuristic clarity. Even here, Taïa’s staging is against formula, keeping the frame awash in panoramic ambience; if these are traumas, their depiction in hindsight is nervewrackingly cold.