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Haiku on a plum tree

a documentary film by Mujah Maraini-Melehi

The Story

Tokyo 1943: Italian anthropologist Fosco Maraini and painter Topazia Alliata refused to sign allegiance to Mussolini. They were imprisoned with their three daughters, Dacia, Yuki and Toni. Today, Toni’s daughter Mujah explores her family’s experience and legacy by trying to bring their memories to life by retracing their steps in her own journey to Japan.

Haiku on a Plum Tree is a visual memoir, a personal journey into my family’s history and legacy as a granddaughter, a daughter and as a mother. This journey of understanding and reconciliation through conversations, interviews, and documents takes me to Japan to retrace my family’s experience by visiting some of the sites from their past including both prison camps, Tempaku and Kosai-ji, in Nagoya. The scenes, memories, and journey are told through animation, maps, voices and framed by Dogugaeshi screens opening up to reveal deeper layers of the story, leading us into a world of mystery, memory, wonder, pain, and silences so we can understand where we are now.

Mujah Maraini-Melehi

Cast & Crew

Mujah Maraini-Melehi

Mujah Maraini-Melehi, Deborah Belford de Furia

Maura Morales Bergmann

Letizia Caudullo

Topazia Alliata, Fosco Maraini, Toni Maraini,
Dacia Maraini, Mujah Maraini-Melehi, Keiko Kano, Norio Kumamoto

Haiku Film, Interlinea Films


COUNTRY Italy GENRE Historic, Biopic


Music by
Academy Award® Winner
Ryuichi Sakamoto
with original composition
“Italian Ainu”

Basil Twist
and his “Dogugaeshi”
Japanese theater screens

“Mujah Maraini-Melehi’s moving documentary is a balm for the eyes and heart, embellished by Ryuichi Sakamoto’s music and Basil Twist’s hypnotic set design.”

AfNews 2018

“Haiku on a Plum Tree is a striking yet delicate testimony of life with a simple and sincere narration. Its elliptical style knows when to focus on the words and gazes of its protagonists. Topazia and Fosco Maraini’s memories reach us with deep,
moving tenderness.”

Gian Luca Pisacane

“Through archival documents and fantastical play, the film manages to go beyond a family’s history, touching the heart strings of collective memory (and nostalgia).”

Carlo Gnetti
Bookciak Magazine

“Unique in its genre: a treasure chest of memories and emotions that gracefully opens to reveal a profound family legacy.”

Silvia Fabbri

“A masterful example of transnational,
transgenerational storytelling.”

Clorinda Donato
The Italian American Review

Thanks to Mujah Maraini-Melehi this story is now part of our cultural patrimony and an example of cinematic art.

Riccardo Tavani

Awards & Festivals

Rome Film Festival October 2016

SalinaDocFest Salina, Sicily
Special Mention “Premio IRRITEC” Sicilia.Doc, June 2017

Biografilm Festival Bologna, June 2017

ARFF “Globe Award”, Berlin, February 2018

Glasgow Film Festival March 2018

Silk Road Festival, Dublin, March 2018

Avvicinamenti Trento Film Festival, Trento, March 2018

Stranger Than Fiction Docs Series, IFC, New York City, April 2018

Edera Film Festival, Special Screening – Donne is Fa Storia, 2018

Female Eye Film Festival, Toronto, June 2018

San Benedetto Film Festival Miglior Lungometraggio Premio della Giuria Popolare, July 2018

Madrid International Film Festival, July 2018

Amsterdam Film Festival August 2018

Aichi International Women’s Film Festival, Nagoya, Japan, Special Event, September 2018

Trevignano Film Festival, Trevignano, September 2018

Blow-Up International Art House Film Festival, Chicago, Finalist, November 2018


5 + 15 =

“The voyage from Florence to Sapporo”
Map drawn by Topazia Alliata, 1938.