August 9, 2012

Justine Shapiro and “Our Summer in Tehran”


Justine Shapiro“I want to meet Iranian mothers in their homes before our sons meet on the battlefield,” said Justine Shapiro, Jewish- American filmmaker and former host of travel series GlobeTrekker. Most importantly, Justine is the creator of the documentary, “Our Summer in Tehran”. The film documents Justine and her then 6-year-old son, Mateo, on a 2007 trip to Tehran, Iran. That year, they spent their summer exploring, filming, and meeting three families. The families varied from a religious family with strong ties to the government to a cosmopolitan, secular family and even another single mom like Justine with a son the age of Mateo. The goal was to humanize Iranians and highlight our similarities before a potential military confrontation where the news media would inevitably portray Iranians as the ‘other’ or opponents as was done with Iraqis during the Iraq war.

When speaking with her friends and family about the idea of traveling to a country which has no diplomatic relations with the U.S. government, everyone was opposed and thought it would not be safe for her or her son. However, after consulting with several people, specifically those who recently traveled to Iran themselves, Justine decided to proceed with her project.

Our Summer in TehranThroughout their summer, Justine and Mateo visited the bazaars, restaurants and even went on a road trip to the holy city of Mashhad. They experienced the Iranian people’s hospitality and kindness to strangers. For American viewers, this film is an educational experience. In fact, it is being used a tool in classrooms across the country to show Iranian culture, its people and a glimpse into family life for the middle class. For members of the Iranian Diaspora, the film is a nostalgic experience.

While much of the movie highlights positive elements of Iranian culture and family life, Justine witnessed first-hand what tensions between two governments can cause. Mid-way through her trip, Justine was abruptly asked to leave by Iran’s Intelligence Agency without any reason and her materials were confiscated at the airport. After three months of daily outreach, Justine eventually secured her materials and was able to edit it into the full length film.

Justine Shapiro - Let's Talk IranOne of the most touching moments of the film is when Justine says goodbye to the mother of the religious family

she visited. The mother had prepared a goodbye note for her new friend that read, “When you return to your country, I will miss you, really, in spite you are a Jewish with a different religion and culture, but you found me.” This line symbolizes one of the many lessons Justine set out to learn, which is that “we all have a lot more in common than we have differences.”

For more information on the film, visit www.oursummerintehran.com. To listen to an interview with Justine Shapiro, click here.




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