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A film about my Italian family’s imprisonment in a Japanese war camp during WWII, blending documentary, puppetry & family history.
A film about my Italian family’s imprisonment in a Japanese war camp during WWII, blending documentary, puppetry & family history.
A film about my Italian family’s imprisonment in a Japanese war camp during WWII, blending documentary, puppetry & family history.
191 backers pledged $46,396 to help bring this project to life.

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Haikus on a Plum Tree

$46,396

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Topazia with her three daughters Dacia, Yuki, and Toni (my mother) at the end of the war in Nagoya 1945-- Topazia con le tre figlie, Dacia, Yuki e Toni (mia madre) alla fine della guerra all'uscita dal campo.  Nagoya 1945. © Fosco Maraini
Topazia with her three daughters Dacia, Yuki, and Toni (my mother) at the end of the war in Nagoya 1945-- Topazia con le tre figlie, Dacia, Yuki e Toni (mia madre) alla fine della guerra all'uscita dal campo. Nagoya 1945. © Fosco Maraini

THE FILM

Haikus on a Plum Tree is a documentary feature that is part historical document, and part visual memoir. This project touches upon a still obscure chapter in Japanese history, but it does so through the extraordinary experience of a family of important cultural influence in Italy and beyond. 

The film explores the legacy of the Maraini family’s experience in a Japanese war camp during WWII. Interviews, animation and Basil twist’s Dogugaeshi (Japanese theater of screens) take us on a voyage back in time, while we also prepare an actual journey back to the sites of the two camps as they are today. My mother, poet and historian Toni Maraini, and my aunt, acclaimed Italian author Dacia Maraini, were only 2 and 7 years old when they entered the first camp in 1943 with their parents, anthropologist Fosco Maraini and Topazia Alliata. Many books and articles have already been written about the Marainis’ story, and various documentaries have touched upon their experience in the Japanese camps. What makes this particular documentary interesting is that it is being told from the inside; the fascinating story is both revealed and experienced by someone intimately involved in its legacy. I believe that my approach to the telling of my family’s history offers a unique and original point of view. The evocative theatrical esthetic that underlines the larger than life mythic quality of the incredible events promises to make this documentary’s visual narrative something out of the ordinary.

IL FILM

Haikus on a Plum Tree è un documentario che è in parte una testimonianza storica e in parte memoria visiva. Questo progetto tratta di un capitolo ancora oscuro nella storia del Giappone, ma lo fa attraverso la straordinaria esperienza di una famiglia di grande influenza culturale in Italia e non solo.

 Il film va alla ricerca di ciò che ha lasciato alla storia la famiglia Maraini dall’esperienza in un campo di concentramento giapponese durante la seconda guerra mondiale. Interviste, animazione e i Dogugaeshi di Basil Twist (teatro giapponese di schermi) ci portano in un viaggio indietro nel tempo, mentre noi ci prepariamo anche ad un viaggio reale che ci riporterà nei siti dei due campi e ce li mostrerà nel loro stato attuale. Mia madre,  Toni Maraini, e mia zia,  Dacia Maraini, avevano solo 2 e 7 anni, quando nel 1943 furono trasportate con i genitori,  Fosco Maraini e Topazia Alliata, nel primo campo. Molti libri e articoli sono stati già scritti sulla storia dei Maraini e vari documentari hanno parlato della loro esperienza nei campi giapponesi. Ciò che rende particolare questo documentario è che la storia viene raccontata dall'interno; l'affascinante storia è rivelata e vissuta da qualcuno coinvolto intimamente nell’ eredità di questa famiglia. Credo che il mio approccio nel raccontare la storia della mia famiglia possa offrire un punto di vista unico e originale. La suggestiva estetica teatrale sottolinea maggiormente la qualità mitica degli incredibili eventi e ci permette di fare di questa narrazione qualcosa di visivamente fuori dal comune. 

Fosco and Topazia
Fosco and Topazia

 WHY TELL THIS STORY

 The incredible story in Haikus on a Plum Tree will resonate with all audiences because in the unfolding of theses specific events, we all recognize our own stories of family identity, memory, courage, survival, and overcoming the wounds of the past. I started interviewing my grandmother Topazia in 2003, and the more I worked with her, the more I realized that it was time to make this story known beyond Italy. Topazia is 101 years old today, and although much has been written about her and the family’s experience, no one has ever made a film about it. 

Topazia, Fosco and their three daughters Yuki, Dacia and Toni (my mother) right after their liberation.  Tokyo 1945.Topazia, Fosco e le tre figlie Yuki, Dacia e Toni (mia madre), poco dopo la fine del periodo di prigionia.  Tokyo 1945.
Topazia, Fosco and their three daughters Yuki, Dacia and Toni (my mother) right after their liberation. Tokyo 1945.Topazia, Fosco e le tre figlie Yuki, Dacia e Toni (mia madre), poco dopo la fine del periodo di prigionia. Tokyo 1945.

PERCHÉ RACCONTARE QUESTA STORIA

 L'incredibile storia di Haikus on a Plum Tree troverà il favore di tutti gli spettatori, perché nello svolgimento di eventi specifici, tutti riconosceranno le storie di identità familiare, la memoria, il coraggio, la sopravvivenza, e il modo di superare le ferite del passato. Ho iniziato a intervistare mia nonna Topazia nel 2003, e più lavoravo con lei, più mi rendevo conto che era il momento di far conoscere questa storia anche al di fuori dell'Italia. Topazia oggi ha 101 anni, e anche se molto è stato scritto su di lei e dell'esperienza della famiglia, nessuno ha mai fatto un film su questa esperienza. 

TOPAZIA'S WAR DIARY

Toapzia's diary-- Il diario di Topazia.  Photo by Katrina Tan
Toapzia's diary-- Il diario di Topazia. Photo by Katrina Tan

Haikus on a Plum Tree is a very important story to tell beyond our own experience as a family because so little is known about Japanese prison camps in Japan. During their difficult imprisonment, Topazia kept a war diary. It too survived as the only known and published diary of an Italian woman in a prison camp in Japan. My grandfather Fosco Maraini who remained deeply connected to Japan, to its people and to its culture, quotes Topazia’s diary to describe their experience in his books Meeting with Japan, and Case, amori, universi.    

Every child of a survivor knows that there are deep wounds that inevitably get passed down to the next generation. Usually, the pain is never voiced. In the process of talking to my grandmother and my mother, it became clear to me that much was unspoken and there was a lot there for me to process and understand. This film is my journey to understanding what happened to them, but it’s also a universal story that I know will speak to many of you because we all inherit our families’ pasts.

IL DIARIO DI PRIGIONIA DI TOPAZIA

Haikus on a Plum Tree è una storia molto importante da raccontare al di fuori della nostra esperienza come una famiglia perché ad oggi si sa ancora molto poco sui campi di prigionia giapponesi in Giappone. Durante la loro difficile prigionia, Topazia tenne un diario di guerra. E’ un documento importante in quanto è l’ unico diario di una donna italiana in un campo di prigionia in Giappone. Mio nonno Fosco Maraini, che è rimasto profondamente legato al Giappone, al suo popolo e alla sua cultura, cita nei suoi libri Incontro con il Giappone, e Case, amori, universi il diario di Topazia per descrivere la loro esperienza. 

  Ogni figlio di un sopravvissuto sa che ci sono profonde ferite che vengono inevitabilmente tramandate alla generazioni successive. Solitamente il dolore non viene mai espresso. Durante le discussioni con mia nonna e mia madre, è stato chiaro quanto di inespresso c'era e quanto dovevo elaborare e capire. Questo film è il mio viaggio nel cercare di capire cosa sia loro successo, ma è anche una storia universale che so parlerà a molti di voi, perché tutti noi ereditiamo il passato delle nostre famiglie. 

MY FAMILY

Topazia.  Japan 1940 © Fosco Maraini
Topazia. Japan 1940 © Fosco Maraini

Topazia Alliata, born in Palermo in 1913 to Prince Enrico di Salaparuta, theosophist, and vintner, and to noble Chilean opera singer Sonia Ortusar, grew up in the magnificent baroque palace of Villa Valguarnera in Bagheria. Greatly influenced by her father’s innovative and liberal ideas, she grew up to become one of the first modern female Sicilian painters and an exceptionally free-thinking woman for her time. After marrying Fosco Maraini, she left with him and her daughter Dacia for Japan where Fosco had won a study grant. In Japan, her daughters Yuki Luisa and Antonella Kiku (Toni) were born. After the war, she came back her ancestral home in Bagheria, Sicily, and poverty, despite the family’s aristocratic origins. She managed the family vineyards in Casteldaccia, Corvo di Salaparuta wines, introducing her own wine Colomba Platino, still a classic today. Once the vineyards were sold, she settled in Rome in 1958 and opened her own art gallery, where she nurtured young international talents while becoming an important protagonist in the artistic fervor of the Roman avant-garde scene. Topazia celebrated her 101th birthday in September 2014. She lives in Rome.

Fosco Maraini
Fosco Maraini

Fosco Maraini (15 November 1912 – 8 June 2004) Anglo-Florentine photographer, anthropologist, ethnologist, writer, mountaineer and academic with the gift of being able to immerse himself in different cultural universes and teach others to be citizens of the world. As a photographer, Fosco Maraini is perhaps best known for his work in Tibet and Japan. His most exemplary work as an anthropologist is his book, Secret Tibet. He also wrote of his experience as a mountaineer, specifically his 1959 ascent of Saraghar and other Himalayan climbs. In 1998, he won the Nonino Prize for being an Italian master of our time. Still today, he is an admired figure in Italian culture. One of Dacia Maraini’s earliest memories of her father is his saying: “Remember that races don't exist, cultures exist.” Dacia Maraini

Dacia Maraini, Nagoya 1945. © Fosco Maraini
Dacia Maraini, Nagoya 1945. © Fosco Maraini

Dacia Maraini (Fiesole, 13 November 1936), the first-born daughter of Fosco Maraini and Topazia Alliata, is one of the most distinguished writers in Italy today. She has written more than fifty books, including novels, plays, collections of poetry and critical essays. She has directed movies and plays and has contributed articles on social injustice and the condition of women to several Italian newspapers and magazines. She has won major literary prizes for her work, notably the Premio Campiello for La lunga vita di Marianna Ucria and the Premio Strega in 1999. She continues to be active in feminist causes and as a commentator on politics and society, especially in columns for newspapers and weeklies.

Dacia, Toni, Yuki. Nagoya 1945 © Fosco Maraini
Dacia, Toni, Yuki. Nagoya 1945 © Fosco Maraini

Antonella Kiku (Toni) Maraini is an Italian writer, poet, art historian, essayist, and one of the most important scholars of Moroccan and Maghreb art and culture. She was born in 1941, in Tokyo. She grew up in Sicily after the war and studied in both Palermo and Florence, and then continued her studies at London University, Smith College, and at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes in Paris. In Morocco, she pioneered field research in art and culture. She was appointed Director (from 1991 to 2006) of the Alberto Moravia Foundation in Rome and edited its literary review. She has published many essays and studies in university publications and collective anthologies as well as her own prize-winning books. She lives in Rome.

Sapporo 1939. © Fosco Maraini
Sapporo 1939. © Fosco Maraini

WHY KICKSTARTER

 We brought our project to Kickstarter because we believe in community driven fundraising. We believe that everyone can contribute to the making of a project they would like to see realized. Every donor’s patronage, no matter how big or small, will get us a step closer to the full realization of our project. Would you like to see this film? Be a part of it, and join us in the making of it. By supporting Haikus on a Plum Tree, you are contributing to the telling of one of the great stories of courage, love, moral integrity, survival, memory, and legacy. 

PERCHE KICKSTARTER

 Abbiamo portato il nostro progetto a Kickstarter perché crediamo nella raccolta fondi portata avanti dalla comunità. Crediamo che ognuno possa contribuire alla realizzazione di un progetto che si vorrebbe vedere realizzato. Ogni donazione, non importa se grande o piccola, ci porterà avanti verso la realizzazione del nostro progetto. Volete vedere questo film? Siate una parte di questo, ed entrate nella sua realizzazione. Sostenendo Haikus on a Plum Tree, si fornisce un contributo alla narrazione di una delle grandi storie di coraggio, amore, integrità morale, sopravvivenza, memoria, e eredità.

OUR GOAL

Basil Twist
Basil Twist

Our goal with this campaign is to reach $ 40,000 which will help us fund our work with Basil Twist. Basil will be coming to Rome in June to work with us on adapting his Dogugaeshi theater of Japanese screens to our story, and on the puppetry portion of our storytelling. These elements represent the memory—the voyage to the past as it is being remembered by our characters. IF WE DO NOT REACH $ 40,000 WITHIN 30 DAYS, OUR PROJECT DOESN’T GET FUNDED AND DONATIONS WILL BE REFUNDED TO BACKERS BY KICKSTARTER. PLEASE HELP US REACH OUR GOAL OF $ 40,000, AND PERHAPS EVEN SURPASS IT! 

WHO IS BASIL TWIST? Basil Twist is a third generation puppeteer and one of the most important forces in puppetry in America today. He is the sole American to graduate from the École Supérieure Nationale des Arts de la Marionnette in Charleville-Mezieres, France. Basil’s work was first spotlighted in New York by “The Jim Henson International Festival of Puppetry” with his award winning “The Araneidae Show”. Coupled with the subsequent critically praised and multiple award winning “Symphonie Fantastique,” Twist was revealed as a singular artist of unlimited imagination. Since then, his productions have toured the world. Basil has received an Obie, a Drama Desk Award, five UNIMA Awards, two Bessie Awards, a New York Innovative Theatre Award, a Henry Hewes Award, a Guggenheim, a USA Artists fellowship and was most recently awarded a Doris Duke Performing Artist Award.

Virginia (sound), Mujah (writer/director), Debbie (co-writer), and Maura (DP)
Virginia (sound), Mujah (writer/director), Debbie (co-writer), and Maura (DP)

IL NOSTRO OBIETTIVO

 Il nostro obiettivo con questa campagna è quello di raggiungere 40 mila dollari che ci aiuterà a finanziare il nostro lavoro con Basil Twist. Basil arriverà a Roma nel mese di giugno a lavorare con noi per adattare il suo teatro Dogugaeshi di schermi giapponesi alla nostra storia. Questi elementi rappresentano la memoria nel viaggio di un passato . SE non si raggiungono $ 40.000 ENTRO 30 GIORNI, IL NOSTRO PROGETTO non ottiene FINANZIAMENTO e I donatori saranno rimborsati da Kickstarter. Aiutateci a raggiungere l'obiettivo di 40.000 dollari, e forse anche superarlo!   

Risks and challenges

Our project is a work in progress. We want to make this film and bring you Haikus on a plum tree as soon as we possibly can, but please keep in mind that there may be production delays along the way. This might in turn delay the expected delivery of the rewards. We will be sure to update you, and keep you posted.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    A THANK YOU!! and your name on our website.

    GRAZIE! e il tuo nome sul nostro sito.

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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    High resolution postcard created for this crowdfunding of Haikus on a Plum Tree, plus your name on our website.
    A big tweet and facebook thank you, plus all of the above.

    Oltre a tutti i riconoscimenti delle sezioni sopra, una cartolina di Haikus on a Plum Tree ad alta risoluzione e il tuo nome sul sito.
    Un tweet di ringraziamento e una menzione sulla nostra pagina facebook.

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    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    Production still and
    MP3 of poem John Minczeski reading Paper in the Concentration Camp (dedicated to Topazia Alliata), From Circle Routes by John Minczeski, copyright 2001 John Minczeski. Reprinted by permission of The University of Akron Press. Unauthorized duplication not permitted.

    Special link to access streaming of film and all of the above.

    Oltre a tutti i riconoscimenti delle sezioni sopra, un fotogramma del documentario, un MP3 del poema Paper in the Concentration Camp (dedicato a Topazia Alliata) letto da Johhn Minczeski, da Circle Routes by John Minczeski, copyright 2001 John Minczeski. Ristampa secondo il permesso della University of Akron Press. repliche non autorizzate non sono permesse.
    link speciale per lo streaming del documentario

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    all of the above
    plus signed copy of the DVD

    Oltre a tutti i riconoscimenti delle sezioni sopra,un DVD del documentario autografato

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    all of the above
    Plus manuscript of English translation of Topazia’s Diary "Ricordi d’arte e prigionia di Topazia Alliata" by Toni Maraini. (Memories of Art and Imprisonment – Topazia Alliata)

    Oltre a tutti i riconoscimenti delle sezioni sopra, il manoscritto della traduzione inglese dei DIARI di TOPAZIA "Ricordi d’arte e prigionia di Topazia Alliata" di Toni Maraini. (Memorie di Arte e prigionia – Topazia Alliata)

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    all of the above
    Plus your name in our end credits under SPECIAL THANKS!
    Black and White photograph of pages from the diary autographed by Topazia.
    A copy of LA NAVE PER KOBE by Dacia Maraini, courtesy of Rizzoli, signed by Dacia

    Oltre a tutti i riconoscimenti delle sezioni sopra, il TUO nome nei credits del film nei ringraziamenti speciali. foto bianco e nero delle pagine del diario autografata da Topazia.
    Una copia di LA NAVE PER KOBE di Dacia Maraini, concessa da Rizzoli,autografata da Dacia

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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    All of the above
    Plus a copy of the book LOVE HOLIDAYS published by Rizzoli, signed by Dacia, Toni and Topazia
    Special guest invitations to the film's premiere (choose your city)

    Oltre a tutti i riconoscimenti delle sezioni sopra, una copia del libro LOVE HOLIDAYS pubblicato da Rizzoli, autografato da Dacia, Toni and Topazia.
    Invito "Special guest" alla premiere del film (scegli la tua città)

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    Pledge $2,500 or more About $2,500

    All of the above
    plus an opportunity to VISIT US ON SET in Rome with Basil Twist (travel costs not included!)
    Event with Basil and puppet demonstration

    Oltre a tutti i riconoscimenti delle sezioni sopra, opportunità di visitare le riprese del documentario durante il lavoro di BASIL TWIST a ROMA a giugno 2015 (viaggio non incluso) evento e dimostrazione di BASIL sul suo teatro di marionette

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    Corporate incentive: YOUR COMPANY'S LOGO in the rolling credits and all of the above.

    Oltre a tutti i riconoscimenti delle sezioni sopra, un riconoscimento speciale per le società con la possibilità di avere il proprio logo nei credits

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    Pledge $10,000 About $10,000

    all of the above plus
    ASSOCIATE PRODUCER CREDIT
    Opening night dinner with director, producer, and co-writer

    Oltre a tutti i riconoscimenti delle sezioni sopra, menzione come PRODUTTORE ASSOCIATO, cena con regista, produttore e sceneggiatore nella sera della première

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Funding period

- (30 days)