NEW YORK, April 17, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Acclaimed documentary, “Haiku on a Plum Tree,” will make its New York City premiere Thursday night as part of the Stranger Than Fiction weekly film series hosted by Thom Powers and Raphaela Neihausen. Taking place at the IFC Center, the event will also feature a question and answer session with the film’s director Mujah Maraini-Melehi and renowned puppeteer Basil Twist.

Maraini-Melehi shared, “My documentary is personal – a small production with a big story that speaks to everyone. Personal stories are important because they help us connect to the past beyond history books – and this is one story that isn’t even in the books.”

Haiku on a Plum Tree” tells the story of Maraini-Melehi’s grandparents during the Second World War and the impact of their experience on the family and subsequent generations. After leaving their native Italy for a new life in Japan, Florentine anthropologist-photographer Fosco Maraini and Sicilian painter Princess Topazia Alliata refused to pledge allegiance to Mussolini’s Republic of Salò. As a result, Fosco, Topazia and their three daughters, Dacia, Yuki and Toni, were placed on house arrest and ultimately interned in a Japanese prison camp. The family survived in the camp for two years, with Topazia keeping a diary for as long as she had paper and pencil.

Inspired by her family’s experience, Maraini-Melehi teamed up with screenwriter Deborah Belford de Furia to create the film. Blending family history and documentary with the dogugaeshi puppetry of Rome Prize-winner Basil Twist and music from Oscar-winner Ryuichi Sakamoto, the film takes the audience on a journey back to Japan. Using the diary, photos and testimony from her mother, aunt and 100-year-old grandmother, Maraini-Melehi considers her family’s decisions along the way and the lasting legacy of their experience.

Maraini-Melehi continued, “Little is known about the prison camps in Japan where my Italian family was interned during WWII. My grandmother’s diary is the only known document that tells us how things were from the inside. The resulting film is a journey of love, hardship, loss and eventually reconciliation and healing, a universal story that still resonates in our current political climate.”

This will be the film’s first screening in New York City and is expected to draw interest from the film, theater and international communities. For event information and tickets, visit:

To learn more about the film, visit:

About Mujah Maraini-Melehi
Daughter of Italian writer Toni Maraini and renowned Moroccan painter Mohamed Melehi, Mujah Maraini-Melehi was born in Casablanca and brought up in both Italy and Morocco. At 17, she moved to New York City where she lived for many years. A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, she studied acting at the Actors Studio and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. After the death of her husband, Broadway actor Daniel McDonald, Mujah moved back to Rome with their two children, Fosco and Ondina. “Haiku on a Plum Tree” is her first film.

About Haiku on a Plum Tree
A documentary feature, “Haiku on a Plum Tree,” is part historical document and part visual memoir. Directed by Mujah Maraini-Melehi, the film considers the experience of her grandparents, who after leaving Italy for a new life in Japan were interned in a civilian prison camp for refusing to pledge allegiance to Mussolini’s Republic of Salò. Using diaries, photos and the testimony of her mother, aunt and elderly grandmother, Maraini-Melehi explores her family’s legacy and brings their memories to life on her own trip to Japan.

Helping to bridge the journey between past and present, “Haiku on a Plum Tree” features the work of acclaimed puppeteer Basil Twist and original music from award-winning composer Ryuichi Sakamoto. For more, visit:

Media Contact: 
Kate Achille