Tokyo cafe to screen controversial short films by Iranian director Keywan Karimi


Iranian filmmaker Keywan Karimi has been sentenced to one year in prison and 223 lashes for making “Writing on the City,” a movie authorities consider anti-government propaganda and an insult to the religion of Islam. His subject: The history of Tehran from the 1979 Revolution to the present, as shown through murals and graffiti that criticize the regime and express hopes for freedom.

On March 27, the Tokyo Spring collective will present the event “Keywan Karimi: An Appeal for Free Speech” at 3 p.m. at Cafe Lavanderia in Shinjuku with the aim of raising awareness about Karimi’s plight and discussing free speech issues in Iran and Japan.

Two of Karimi’s short films, “Broken Border” (“Marze Shekaste”) and “The Adventure of Married Couple” (“Zan va Shohare Karegar”), will be screened, and Karimi himself is tentatively scheduled appear via Skype. He is currently shooting a new film and appealing his verdict, but according to organizers, that could change before Sunday.

In addition to the film screenings, poetry by dissident Iranian writers will be read and journalist David McNeill will talk about the deteriorating situation of free speech in Japan.

Tokyo Spring is not the first to protest against the harsh punishment to be meted out to Karimi. Since his October 2015 sentencing, the San Sebastian International Film Festival has mounted a petition drive, and the Punto de Vista documentary film festival in Pamplona, Spain has called for prominent filmmakers around the world to say a word of support for each lash Karimi is to suffer in a film called, appropriately, “223 Words.”