A film about the struggles of a young man growing up gay and poor in Morocco premiered Wednesday at the Venice Film Festival.

Salvation Army is based on the life of writer Abdellah Taia, who in 2006 became the first high-profile Moroccan to publicly come out gay.

In the film, directed by Taia, Abdellah is aware of his sexuality from an early age. He's frequently hit on by older men and fears being discovered. (A clip from the film is embedded on this page. Visit our video library for more videos.)

Taia told France 24 that homosexuality in Morocco remains a crime and that “people are still very harsh in their views of gays.”

“On the other hand, the Moroccan press has dramatically changed its view on homosexuality – for example, they defend me. They also give gay people in Morocco the chance to express themselves. There are young gay Moroccans who created a gay magazine in Arabic. And there's now an Arabic word for 'homosexual' that is not disrespectful: 'mithy.' It was created just six years ago, and is now used everywhere.”

But, he added, that “it's still impossible to come out of the closet in Morocco and anywhere in the Arab world.”

“Maybe this film will help some gay and lesbian Arab people face reality and have some support,” he added in comments to the AP. “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.”

Taia, 40, lives in Paris.