Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
'Chocolate City' Finally Gets a Trailer + Release Date Set (Might It Steal Some of 'Magic Mike's' Summer Thunder?) 'Chocolate City' Finally Gets a Trailer + Release Date Set (Might It Steal Some of 'Magic Mike's' Summer Thunder?) Barbie Is Honoring Ava DuVernay (and Other "Sheroes") With Her Very Own Doll. Have a Look... Barbie Is Honoring Ava DuVernay (and Other "Sheroes") With Her Very Own Doll. Have a Look... BET Unveils 2015-2016 Slate Additions: New Original Scripted & Unscripted Series, Movies, News Specials & More BET Unveils 2015-2016 Slate Additions: New Original Scripted & Unscripted Series, Movies, News Specials & More Jada Pinkett Smith's Fish Mooney Will Return to 'Gotham' Streets with a New Look & Tougher Than Ever Jada Pinkett Smith's Fish Mooney Will Return to 'Gotham' Streets with a New Look & Tougher Than Ever Mo'Nique Presents Email Evidence That Shows She Was in Contention for the Role of Cookie in 'Empire' Mo'Nique Presents Email Evidence That Shows She Was in Contention for the Role of Cookie in 'Empire' Films & TV Series Coming to (and Leaving) Netflix's Streaming Library In May Films & TV Series Coming to (and Leaving) Netflix's Streaming Library In May James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson Will Share a Stage Again in a Revival of 'The Gin Game' James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson Will Share a Stage Again in a Revival of 'The Gin Game' Watch: Michael Jackson’s Movie Career Summed Up in 7 Minutes Watch: Michael Jackson’s Movie Career Summed Up in 7 Minutes Watch First Trailer for 'Desperate Housewives - Africa' + Individual Character Profiles Watch First Trailer for 'Desperate Housewives - Africa' + Individual Character Profiles Watch Trailer for Jordan Davis Documentary, '3 1/2 Minutes.' Coming to HBO This Fall Watch Trailer for Jordan Davis Documentary, '3 1/2 Minutes.' Coming to HBO This Fall Quentin Tarantino's 'H8ful Eight' Gets a Teaser Trailer (Samuel L. Jackson, Belinda Owino) Quentin Tarantino's 'H8ful Eight' Gets a Teaser Trailer (Samuel L. Jackson, Belinda Owino) Here Are the Cities & Theaters in Which Patrik-Ian Polk's Award-Winning Drama 'Blackbird' Will Open Here Are the Cities & Theaters in Which Patrik-Ian Polk's Award-Winning Drama 'Blackbird' Will Open Trailer: Pilot Project 'First Gen' (The Trials and Tribulations of Being a First Gen Nigerian-American) Trailer: Pilot Project 'First Gen' (The Trials and Tribulations of Being a First Gen Nigerian-American) Apparently, Many of You Aren't Pleased With the "All-New" 'Single Ladies'... What's Going on? Apparently, Many of You Aren't Pleased With the "All-New" 'Single Ladies'... What's Going on? What to Expect in Season 2 of 'Empire' (Less Opulence; Spike Lee May Direct, Oprah May Guest-Star, More) What to Expect in Season 2 of 'Empire' (Less Opulence; Spike Lee May Direct, Oprah May Guest-Star, More) Why Was Janet Hubert (Aunt Viv) Really Replaced on 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'? Buzzfeed Investigates Why Was Janet Hubert (Aunt Viv) Really Replaced on 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'? Buzzfeed Investigates Whoopi Goldberg & Daughter Alex Martin Enter Reality TV Series Ring Whoopi Goldberg & Daughter Alex Martin Enter Reality TV Series Ring Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie... Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie...

ND/NF Review: 'Salvation Army' Falls Short of Expectations

Shadow and Act By Zeba Blay | Shadow and Act March 28, 2014 at 11:40AM

It's hard to pinpoint exactly where director Abdellah Taia's Salvation Army goes wrong, mostly because it had so much going for it to begin with.
0
Salvation Army (L’Armée du salut)
Salvation Army (L’Armée du salut)

It's hard to pinpoint exactly where director Abdellah Taia's Salvation Army goes wrong, mostly because it had so much going for it to begin with. Based on Taia's own successful autobiographical novel of the same name, the film attempts to tell a story not often seen on screen, that of a young gay man growing up in Morocco, trying to reconcile his own desires with his obligations to his family.

Actor Said Mrini plays the young Abdellah, a boy of 15 who lives in a small house where he seems to fade into the background in a household dominated by several sisters and the constant tensions between his overbearing mother and surly father. There's also his older brother Slimane (Amine Ennaji), who he simultaneously admires and desires, despite himself. We watch him navigate the stresses at home and, outside the house, grapple with his sexuality as he carries on several physical relationships with older men in the neighborhood.

In many ways, the film's subject matter is refreshing. Again, it's always important to see stories about people in the LGBT community from a distinctly non-Western point-of-view.  Mrini handles several sex scenes with a bravery and maturity that's impressive for someone so young. And it's surely a beautiful film to look at - Agnes Godard's cinematography turns the mundanities of Abdellah’s Casablanca neighborhood into a muted kind of poetry.

And yet there isn't much to say about the film beyond that. It's unfortunate, because from its first moments Salvation Army is a movie overflowing with promise and possibility. But for such a distinct and uncommon tale, it does little in the way of really engaging the viewer. The problem is that the characters aren't really engaged, especially the character we're supposed to be the most invested in.

Things happen to Abdellah - there is vignette after vignette of things happening to him, but at no point do we ever get a real inkling about how he feels about these things. This seems to be no fault of Mrini, who does what he can with very little dialogue and seemingly even less direction. There's a distance created by Taia's adaptation of his own work, which gives little insight into Abdellah's inner world, his motivations, and ultimately leaves the viewer feeling a little cold.

The film has a very disjointed plot, and sometimes disjointed, vague plots can be rather effective. But the real issue is how Taia dangles important, interesting themes in front of the audience, then snatches them away. We see the teenaged Abdellah dispassionately have sex with much older men throughout the film - but the dynamics and implications of these relationships, how they may be connected to his sexual desire for his brother, how they affect him, are never fully explored.

And after a very long set up of his teenhood that ultimately leads to nowhere, the movie awkwardly jumps not once but twice into the future, presenting an older version of Abdellah (Karim Ait M'Hand) while miraculously revealing even less of who he is. After a while, the mystery of it all becomes a little tiresome. The film ends with a pretty but predictably, frustratingly vague final scene. It isn't offensive, just disappointing. What's left is the question of what could have been.


Zeba Blay is a Ghanaian-born film and culture writer based in New York. She is a contributor to Huffington Post, Africa Style Daily, and Slant Magazine. She co-hosts the weekly podcast Two Brown Girls, and runs a personal movie blog, Film Memory. Follow her on Twitter @zblay.

This article is related to: New Directors/New Films


Shadow & ActNewsletter