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Writing on the City (Persian: نوشتن بر شهر‎, translit. Neveshtan bar Shahr) Is a 60 minutes documentary film about graffiti in Tehran by Iranian Independent filmmaker Keywan Karimi that began to produce in 2012 and completed in August 2015. this film edited several time and it has been shown in several film festivals and won the prize. At the first time after publishing the trailer of the film on YouTube,[1] Karimi arrested in 2013 by Revolutionary Guard Corps and in October 2015 sentenced by the Islamic Revolutionary Court to six years imprisonment and 223 Lashes for "propagating against the Islamic Republic" and "insulting religious sanctities.[2]

Writing on the City
Directed by Keywan Karimi
Produced by Keywan Karimi
Written by Amin Bozorgian
Music by Bamdad Afshar
Cinematography Arasto Madahi Givi
Edited by Farahnaz Sharifi
Release date
  • February 12, 2016 (2016-02-12) (Punto de Vista)
Running time
60 minutes
Country Iran
Language Persian

Raoul Vaneigem, who is an active member of the Situationist movement, wrote a piece to express his appreciation when he saw Keywan's documentary film:[3]

"To Keywan Karimi ; The wall is a mirror
A mirror of the house, of the city, of the world
Reflections of every shape and form stream by it as clouds do in the sky
We have learned to go through the mirror so what was closed will open up
The freedom of the walls breaks down the prison walls
When reality is unveiled, dreams become reality
Under the clothing of creeds and of ideas, what is lived is always bare
Then nothing more conceals a human being from himself
Someday the walls will have the transparency of our desires"

"It really worked in the sense we want films to work: to cause a debate and a discussion, to be mindbending. We do not like films that want to sleep the audience conscience, but films that us and Writing on the city is totally that: a film that launches questions without answers. Again, watching the movie you can see how diverse people use a wall for protesting or for defending a government, so it is an impartial point of view, something very far from a document 'against' anything… he is telling us reality", Oskar Alegria, president of the Punto de Vista film festival, which Writing in the City was shown public for the first time says.[4]

Giona Nazzaro, General Delegate Venice international film Critics' week, calls Karimi a "challenger" and "creative" film-maker also that his work is to deal with form and condition of society.[5] He also wrote a note about Writing on the City, which was published in Vision Du Reel Film Festival's website: "In the turmoil following the Iranian revolution that changed not only the political history of Iran but also of the world, pictures of Khomeini and Shariati were everywhere around Tehran. The manifold diversity of slogans added new colors to the city. Then the Iran–Iraq War broke out. Images of martyrs, military leaders, and death-defying heroes were now, the main subjects. The walls of the city became the social and political thermometer of Iranian society. A new space for public expression was born. Thus, the film conveys the story of the thirty years that extend from the inception of the Islamic Revolution to the re-election of Mahmud Ahmadinejad in 2009. Unfortunately, right after the completion of the film, director Keywan Karimi had to face charges of insulting the government and Islam, resulting in a conviction of six years imprison and 223 lashes. After many appeals and pleas, the prison years were reduced to one, but the lashes were not remitted. Writing on the City is one the best Iranian documentaries of recent years."[6]

In this regard, the Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema had published an article on their websites. The writer thus explained his viewpoint about the film and the stories which happened due to the film to the director, Keywan Karimi: "Graffiti have historically announced the main events that have taken place in Teheran. These messages have extended like the walls built in the city for the past 200 years. However, the concepts and intentions of the graffiti have frequently reflected a distorted mirror of Iranian reality. Keywan Karimi's eye goes beyond the historical-political account of the evolution of Iranian society proposed by the archive footage and the images shot by Karimi himself. The film raises universal debates that time has turned into an implacable metaphor for its director's resistance. Iran's Revolutionary Court has recently sentenced Karimi to one year in prison and 223 lashings for having directed Writing on the City. The authentic graffiti artists are never in the service of power."[7]

The Spanish newspaper, El Mundo also wrote about Writing on the city: "On the screen, a man strives to draw the last traces of an immense face. At the time the camera stops against him, the artist with his face obscured by night outline just strange eyes. Large and open. At that time, it is the viewer who feels observed.The film looks back at the audience." The writer added: "Actually, the film is limited to reviewing an art form, expression or, where appropriate, reflection assisting the Iranian population even before the Islamic regime back in 1979 and extending until 2009. For the Tehran walls parading Koranic psalms, incendiary proclamations, declarations of love, abstract paintings, unfulfilled desires and, again, hope. All of them speak, as the narrator of 'the yearnings of a people' and their slaveries."[8]

Another critic thus expressed his viewpoint about Writing on the City in an interview with a Spanish newspaper, El Diario: "Like Agnes Varda in Mur murs or Chris Marker in Chats perchés (over Los Angeles and Paris, respectively), Karimi had realized that graffiti make up a sort of subconscious of a city. That was the territory Karimi wanted to understand and analyze, but the government of his country, which does not like riddles, wants to punish his curiosity."[9]

Also in the continuation of this article is: "The title, in fact, is a tribute to Henri Lefebvre, the French sociologist who inspired the Situationist movement. Karimi thus connects with a critique of the alienation of capitalist society through the images begins with modernity. A suspicion that what really bothers the Iranian government is not that the film was questioned about the politicized phrases on the walls, but precisely the opposite role: that, by showing the use that power makes the walls to make the citizenship clientele, Iran does not appear, in fact, as different from other capitalist countries, those US against many of his murals target country. Perhaps that is really the strength of his films: his complaint, so delicately built, can not fall into Manichaeism. His gaze is deep and complex."[9]

"Has the feature to show, to show without explaining, without their express opinion. It simply shows reality, what is, what happens, the conclusions are left to the viewer. And maybe that's the worst, most unfairness of his sentence, if he can find a worse part to such injustice. Keywan has been convicted of teaching a reality. Not even explain it, not even raise his voice and condemn. He only shows. And it is, or should be, inconceivable that you can condemn for the sake of showing something is happening." Manuel Nunez Jimenez, a Spanish director said about Karimi's last documentary film.[9]

Film screeningEdit

The special jury prize of Spain Punto de vista film festival

Writing on the City was shown in Spain in two times, first time on 12 February 2016 in Punto de vista film festival and won the special jury prize of film festival.[10] The second screening in Spain was on 5 March 2016 in Tabakalera, the international contemporary culture center in San Sebastián.[11] The film also was shown in other Film Festivals. The next was in Switzerland, the Visions du Réel documentary film festival on 21 April 2016[6] and then in Argentina, the Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema on 24 April 2016.[7] The documentary was also screened on August year 2016 at the Filmes do Homem International Documentary Film Festival in Portugal.[12]


  1. ^ Keywan Karimi (2013-09-27), writing on city, retrieved 2016-06-18 
  2. ^ TOI - Award-winning Iranian filmmaker gets 6 year prison and 223 Lashes sentence
  3. ^ Raoul Vaneigem - The wall is a mirror
  4. ^ web, Aldor Internet. Diseño y programación. "Punto de Vista - International Documentary Film Festival of Navarra". Retrieved 2016-07-20. 
  5. ^ web, Aldor Internet. Diseño y programación. "Punto de Vista - International Documentary Film Festival of Navarra". Retrieved 2016-07-20. 
  6. ^ a b "Neveshtan Bar Shahr". Visions du Réel. 2015-01-01. Retrieved 2016-06-18. 
  7. ^ a b ".: FESTIVALES de Buenos Aires - writing-on-the-city :". Retrieved 2016-06-18. 
  8. ^ "Palabras contra latigazos". El Mundo. Retrieved 2016-07-20. 
  9. ^ a b c "Paredes que hablan demasiado". El Diario. Retrieved 2016-07-20. 
  10. ^ web, Aldor Internet. Diseño y programación. "FULL-LENGTH FILMS - Writing on the City - Punto de Vista - International Documentary Film Festival of Navarra". Retrieved 2016-06-17. 
  11. ^ "Writing on the city | Tabakalera - Donostia / San Sebastián". Retrieved 2016-06-19. 
  12. ^ "Filmes do Homem". Retrieved 2016-08-15. 

External linksEdit