Directed by Justine Shapiro
2011, 59 minutes
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In her Oscar nominated documentary Promises, filmmaker Justine Shapiro took us into the lives of Palestinian and Israeli children in and around Jerusalem. Her new documentary, Our Summer in Tehran, transports us into the seldom seen realm of middle class family life in Iran, transcending overt politics for a perspective Western media has little interest in showing.
Justine, a Jewish-American filmmaker and former host of the travel series Globe Trekker, takes her 6-year-old son Mateo with her to Tehran where they spend the summer with 3 families: a religious family with ties to the government; a modern, secular family; and a single mom who is an actress.
Providing a deeper understanding of Iran at this critical time, Our Summer in Tehran is an intimate and nuanced portrait, not of a nation, but of its people.
"Based on my research, I have come to the realization that Iranian society is increasingly shaped by middle class values that are very similar to those we find in the West... Consequently, I am very aware of how the Western coverage of Iran, which focuses on Islam, fundamentalism, and foreign policy, misses what goes on in Iran under the surface. What is interesting about Iran's experience from a cross-cultural perspective -- and here Our Summer in Tehran excels -- is that these modernizing changes are not equal to westernization, and are not confined to affluent suburbs of northern Tehran. They have spread to the more traditional and conservative communities that are rarely featured in the Western media, and have the potential to forge social pressures inside Iran for peace and social stability. At a time when the relations between Iran and the West are increasingly narrowed to the nuclear dispute, the broader understanding of Iran that Our Summer in Tehran provides is of great value for US students and the general public. Furthermore, by creating a deeper understanding of Iran and its people, the film contributes to greater cross-cultural communication with the broader Muslim world."
- Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, Professor of Economics at Virginia Tech, Senior Fellow of the Brookings Institution (nonresident), Research Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Security, Harvard Kennedy School
"This film should be widely shown in the United States and indeed around the world to help humanize a country that has so often been demonized. It shows how much we have in common with Iranians – their love of family, in particular, of children – without sugarcoating the difficulties that Iranians face. The Iran in this film is a sophisticated nation with a deep culture that existed long before the Islamic Republic and that will undoubtedly endure. Revealing this Iran through the eyes of a six-year-old American boy is both moving and effective. It should teach us all to see the world, as Mateo’s mom, filmmaker Justine Shapiro says, “in wonder rather than in fear."
- Barbara Slavin, former Assistant Managing Editor at The Washington Times; author of Bitter Friends Bosom Enemies: Iran, the U.S. and the Twisted Path to Confrontation
"...These people who could not seem less like our enemy, might someday find themselves beneath our bombs. This is a film that Americans need to see sooner rather than later."
– Journalist Evan Hill, Al Jazeera
"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". - National Iranian American Council
"An eye-opening look at Iranian middle-class life, this is recommended ." - Video Librarian
" Our Summer in Tehran helps shed a light on the similarities that exist between our value systems in the West—a love of family, respect—which helps to create a better understanding of the people of Iran... Recommended for anyone looking to gain a better understanding of a people and culture that are routinely demonized in Western media." - Educational Media Reviews Online
" A poignant, respectful, and open-minded peek at a country and culture that is often misunderstood". - Booklist
"Suitable for high school classes and for college courses in cultural anthropology, political anthropology, and Iranian studies, as well as general audiences." - Anthropology Review Database