Justine Shapiro was born in South Africa and grew up in Berkeley, California, where she lives today with her young son. She attended Tufts University in Boston where she studied History and Theatre. She moved to Paris to study theatre with Phillippe Gaulier and later went to Hollywood where she appeared in films and television movies including I’ll Do Anything (by James L. Brooks), Storyville (20th Century Fox), Floodtide (Granada Television), and SeaQuest DSV (Amblin Entertainment). During four years in Los Angeles, Justine taught English to immigrants, and their stories inspired her to take the next step in her life.
Justine returned to the San Francisco Bay area and became involved in several documentary projects, including Voices from the Storm about Gulf War veterans and IDG Film’s Nagasaki Journey. In 1995, Justine began producing an independent documentary film titled Promises, featuring seven Israeli and Palestinian children in Jerusalem. Rather than focusing on hard news, Promises offers a human portrait of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The film was nominated for a 2002 Academy Award for best documentary. It won News and Documentary Emmys for best documentary and for outstanding background/analysis. The film also received audience awards at the San Francisco, Vancouver, Sao Paolo and Rotterdam film festivals, as well as juried awards at the Hamptons, Valladolid, Locarno, Munich and Jerusalem film festivals.
With Globe Trekker, Justine has nearly conquered her fear of flying as the show has taken her all over the world. Justine loves to travel and has explored much of Europe, Israel, Mexico, Morocco, and the Palestinian territories on her own. She speaks French and Spanish.
“I think that the way to connect with other ‘distinct’ cultures is to go with an open heart and spend time with the locals. Many travelers spend time within the glass bubble of the resort or the hotel or the organized tour. People are the same the world over and the only way to experience this is to spend time with the people.”
“You go some place and suddenly behold a landscape you’ve read about but never seen before. I feel that that’s the most exciting experience. Just like I don’t want someone to tell me what a movie’s about, I want to see it for myself.”
“I believe that it’s only when you read, travel, and talk to people that you can come to realize that the things you’ve taken for granted all your life aren’t necessarily right. People think that when they travel somewhere they’re going to go and learn about that place. I think what happen a lot is that people go and learn about themselves.”
“Just as long as they keep an open mind, put thought into how they choose to spend their money and leave their preconceptions at home, then travel can be a wonderfully enlightening experience, both for the backpacker and the people they run into along the way.”
Good and bad food
“The strangest thing I’ve ever eaten are live jumiles (beetles) in Mexico.”
“You’d be amazed what you do when a camera is pointing at you and the fact is that many people do believe in the ‘enhancing’ properties of snake blood so I had to try it. My philosophy is: if it ain’t gonna kill me, I might as well try it.”
“India is a place that turns all your notions upside down and wakes you up to the many other ways of perceiving time, life, and spirituality.”
“Mali is a beautiful wonderful country and the Dogon Escarpement is impressive. Make sure you don’t go when there are wind storms and bring photos of yourself and family to show to the families there. They love to see where you come from. Postcards from your country also make a great gift.”
“The scariest thing was not on a GT shoot. I was camping in Baja California, high up in the mountains in the middle of no where and in the river beds where the cave paintings are. There was a flash flood at 11:00 p.m. That was friggin’ scary! The water rose so incredibly fast and there were about eight of us and eight mules backing up against the cave walls hoping the water would stop. It finally did at 5:00 a.m. Not fun!”