SUMMER IN THE FOREST
Opens at Village East Cinemas in NYC on March 23, 2018
Trailer accessible via www.summerintheforest.com
Audio described / access version available
SUMMER IN THE FOREST
Like countless others Philippe, Michel, Andre and Patrick were labeled ‘idiots’, locked away and forgotten in violent asylums, until the 1960s, when the young philosopher Jean Vanier took a stand and secured their release – the first time in history that anyone had beaten the system. Together they created L’Arche, a commune at the edge of a beautiful forest near Paris and a quiet revolution was born.
Now in his 80s and still at L’Arche, Jean has discovered something that most of us have forgotten – what it is to be human, to be foolish, and to be happy.
SUMMER IN THE FOREST invites us to abandon the rat race and forge new friendships. Amid the ancient trees, Philippe, Patrick, Jean and the others welcome us into their lives. If there are rules to break, they will be broken and if there is a truth to be told, they will tell it. Michel wants to share with us his war torn past, Andre is desperate for a date, and young David will prove himself a hero in the fight against the forces of evil.
UK Press Comments
“Joyously uplifting,” Daily Mail
“It is a film that could, and should, change your life,” Rosa Monckton
“A film full of laughter and joy,” Christina Patterson, Guardian
“An extremely important film,” Rachel Campbell-Johnston, Chief Art Critic, The Times
“Turns the world upside-down…deserves a giant screening in Trafalgar Square,” The Spectator
“Reaches out to one’s sense of what it is to be human,” Katie Hollier, Mencap
“Revolutionary… a tender-hearted documentary,” Daily Express
“Above all, a peaceful vision,” Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
“Exceptionally moving,” Sight & Sound
Director’s Statement – Randall Wright
As a child every few weeks my father would drive the family over to my grandparents for Sunday lunch. Perhaps once a year, May, his aunt, would drop by later in the afternoon. She made a dramatic entrance. She had a disfigured face, strange clothes and was referred to as ‘simple’. When she entered the room everyone went quiet and my sisters and I were frightened of her. No sooner had she made her entrance she was being ushered out again. All I can remember of her was a gentle muttering and a ‘hello’. Nearly every family has a May somewhere in their history. She is the hidden inspiration for this film, but the truth is I remember very little about her, beyond the hello. People with intellectual disabilities are the most rejected people on the planet. There is something deep inside us, inside me, that wants to forget she exists. Reading Jean Vanier’s books helped me start to understand why.
I first met Jean Vanier at St Pancras International, on his way home to a village, Trosly-Breuil, north of Paris. Towering above me like Jacques Tati, he has one of the kindest faces you will ever see. He sat down in a cafe and listened patiently to my idea for a documentary that tried to get to know the intellectually disabled as people. He then invited me to visit his community, on the fringes of an immense ancient forest.
Jean Vanier is one of the great humanitarians of our time. He saw the value of people with intellectual disabilities and rescued them from lunatic asylums in 1964 and, by proving they could live in an ordinary house, changed the care system for a whole category of human beings throughout the Western world and beyond. The organization he founded, L’Arche, in France, now has 151 communities in 37 countries, including the US, and is constantly growing. He has authored classic books on the subject, won international awards, such as the Templeton prize, but he is not a household name, unlike his friend Mother Teresa.
Jean Vanier’s whole being is focused on the exact opposite of worldly ego. He has given his life to people we judge to be failures. He also suggests that these marginalized people, far from being insignificant and irrelevant have something to teach us by example: that we need each other; that we must wake up from our fantasy of perpetual individual success. As he says in the film: the powerful lead us to ideology, the weak are in the dirt and lead us to reality. This philosophy he learnt from the pioneers he built his first community with, who are also the subject of the film: Philippe Seux, Patrick Droualt, Michel Petit and Andre Stubenrauch.
Throughout the making of Summer in the Forest I kept in mind one of Vanier’s key questions: how do you make friends with someone different to you? It is a question Vanier has asked perhaps all his life. He takes it further: how do you reach out to people on the margins, to different social or ethnic groups, and how do you make peace with your enemy? It is a practical question that came out of his experience of the atrocities of the Second World War, especially the attack by the Nazis on the weakest members of society. It is also the question the stars of the film, including others, David Surmaire, Sara Daqdaq and Andre Stubenrauch asked of us: ‘Will you be my friend?’
To make the film we had to learn to let our barriers down and to give up some of our controlling filmmaking habits. Before we even started Theo Chester the assistant director and I spent weeks getting to know people before the cameras arrived.
Eventually we chose the Val Fleuri, a large light-filled house where many of the founding members still live, and where, fifty yards from his modest cottage, Jean, now 88, has most of his meals. Gradually the stars started to choose themselves: Patrick Druault, with his constant request for cigarettes, Andre with his constant complaints, Michel Petit with deep philosophical observations of his own, and David a small young man keen to show us his manliness.
Throughout the summer our stars took us deep into the forest to ponder, joke and often unexpectedly reveal the stories of their lives by whichever anarchic method seemed most appropriate: psychodrama, memories of wartime experience, confiding in stories of love, or performing comic routines. The elemental forces of the forest, and summer gave these moments the epic backdrop they deserved because behind them lay the immense courage that enabled them to rebuild their lives. The whole film is shot more like a fully orchestrated fiction film to give them the production values they deserve but are rarely given.
As an aside – in these romantic locations two characters made their first steps to fuller independence: Celine falls in love with Fred Dethouy, and they plan to get married. Their story chimed with another personal memory of mine. During my childhood in Leicester, enlightened local education authorities placed physically handicapped students in regular primary school classes. One of those students, with cerebral palsy, became a life long friend. It was only recently she pointed out that I, along with the rest of her friends, had failed to realize that all she wanted from life, like everyone else, was to fall in love. Many of the older people in the film, like my friend, mention marriage as an unattainable dream, but for the next generation growing up in a community of mutual respect finding a partner is a realistic possibility.
Summer in the Forest is about Michel’s courage, Jean’s hope, Maha’s grace, Andre’s longing, Helmi’s loyalty, Celine and Fred’s love; all people who have made a very beautiful world alongside our very broken one. It tries to answer the question ‘how can you make friends with someone different to you’ but also why you should try. When you are with people with intellectual disabilities they teach us by example to drop the guard, and stop pretending. It’s a chance to rediscover ourselves.
Hobbies: Music & Dancing
Favourite Film: Texas Walker
Favourite Animal: Dogs
Using his strength to save the world is David’s top priority. A self-styled super-hero from Royan, David thinks big. He’s not at all interested in being small. When not saving the world, David can be found dancing in his room, working at the packing plant, hanging out with his girlfriend Pauline, or watching movies – old Westerns are a particular favourite. Like the cowboys of old, if anyone annoys or threatens his girl, he’s always there to be her hero.
Celine & Fred
Occupations: Groundskeeper (Fred) and mosaic artist (Celine)
Hobbies: Holidays in the sun
Future projects: Planning a wedding
When Celine first arrived at Le Val Fleuri, she was shy and withdrawn, the opposite of boisterous, playful Fred, who immediately caught her eye. The two first spoke on a trip to Lourdes, when she accidentally hit him with a coke bottle, and they’ve been inseparable ever since. In the years they’ve been an item, Celine has emerged from her shell, and the happy couple are about to be engaged. It’s their dream to live together, alone, but close enough to the community to call in for breakfast.
Interests: World War II & Birdwatching
Favourite Exercise: Long walks
Would Like To Be: A Historian
Michel’s earliest memories are of hiding in the basement in his hometown of Amiens while bombs fell during the Second World War. From Amiens, he was moved to an asylum, where he endured years of abusive treatment from wardens – but they couldn’t break him. Michel rebelled, shaving his head and walking 30km to escape. Now living happily in Trosly, calmer and more reflective these days, Michel is still haunted by dark memories from the past.
Favourite Music: Jean Ferrat
Favourite Films: Romantic Comedies
Andre grew up in a tough, macho household, with a strict father who insisted that Andre should live his life to the full. Over the years, he’s tried his hand at crafts like pottery, weaving and painting – as well as the occasional wrestling match – but amongst his friends at Trosly, Andre feels like he’s finally found his place and has started looking to the future. Most of all he wants to travel, perhaps alongside his best friend Widad, whose company he cherishes during their regular evening meals.
Hobbies: Crafts & Shopping
Favourite Food: Chips
Would Like To Be: Happy & Content
Above all, Sara wants to see people smile and be happy. It’s her passion, both in her community at Ma’an Lil-Hayat, and with her family and friends outside. She loves music, dancing and having a good time, as well as shopping for clothes out in the winding streets of Bethlehem. A natural listener, Sara is a confidante and a rock for all of her friends, an honoured position that she takes very seriously.
Favourite Drink: Non-alcoholic Beer
Would Like To Be: An Artist
Patrick is passionate about food, drink and especially shopping, but his inner thoughts are often enigmatic. Many see him as something of a loner, off on his long solo walks around the village and childhood haunts in Paris, but those who know him will have seen another side to Patrick – one that’s affectionate, caring and often very funny. One day, he may even do what everyone’s been telling him for years, and give up the cigarettes.
Occupation: Textiles craftsman
Interests: Style, exercise
Happiest when: Hanging out with friends
Before coming to Ma’an Lil-Hayat, Hilmi was ridiculed and regularly beaten by his peer group and even hostile strangers who didn’t understand him or what he’s about. At the centre, he’s free of all that, and able to indulge his passions for fashion, crafts and music. Hilmi is often the life and soul of the Bethlehem community, soaking up the attention at parties, though he has a shy side too, and can just as often be found hidden away in the corner, chatting with close friends.
Favourite Food: Christmas Pudding
Pet Peeves: Intolerance, Violence
Now 87, Jean has spent more than half his life working and living with the community that he founded in Trosly, an experience that has transformed his life. Once he was a naval officer, but now he dedicates all of his time to the community, be that travelling the world – a task he doesn’t relish – or wasting time with his friends back at Le Val Fleuri.
Randall Wright lives in London. After university Randall was accepted for traineeships at the BBC in editing and directing. He has now directed and produced over thirty major documentaries. His most recent films include the cinema film Hockney which premiered at the London Film Festival and released in the US, UK, France, Italy, and Australia. It was nominated for an RTS, Grierson and won the FIFA award. His current cinema documentary is called Summer in the Forest which tells the story of Jean Vanier, and the first communities for people with intellectual disabilities, and has been nominated for Best Film, and Best Documentary Film at the Nice International Film Festival.
His previous work includes UK Lucian Freud: A Painted Life, which was critically acclaimed, winning an RTS award for best documentary of the year and earning a Grierson and Emmy nomination, and BAFTA Robert Flaherty nomination, Jack. The Lad a comic documentary about the years leading to Jack Rosenthal’s first screen play, which was nominated for a BAFTA; The Secret Centre, about John Le Carre’s career as a spy; and many films on sub-Saharan African subjects including an acclaimed three part series for Channel 4, Africa Unmasked.
During his childhood in Leicester, enlightened local education authorities placed physically handicapped students in regular classes. One of those students, with cerebral palsy, became a lifelong friend and introduced him to the realities of life with disabilities, including people with intellectual disability. Summer in the Forest celebrates the international movement L’Arche that made known the gifts of people with intellectual disabilities working together for a humane society.
Richard Wilson escaped the BBC 17 years ago and has since produced some 200 films, mostly documentaries, for TV and cinemas around the world. He has won multiple awards in a career that stretches from the South Pole to daytime TV.
Patrick studied Fine Art, then took film at the RCA. He has shot many Art documentaries, independent features, TV drama, comedy and commercials. He jointly won the Evening Standard Award and Valladolid Film Festival in Cinematography for Terence Davies’ Distant Voices/Still Lives and shot the Prix Italia-nominated I’ll Be Your Mirror.
Paul Binns is a BAFTA award- winning film editor who trained at the London International Film School. Paul’s work includes the films I’ll Be Your Mirror, about the photographer, Nan Goldin, and Tell Me The Truth About Love, about the poet W.H.Auden. In 2006 he won the BAFTA Editing Craft Award for the drama- documentary, The Year London Blew Up.
Mangurama, a partnership between Abramorama and Mangusta Productions, brings films that celebrate “consciousness” to the big, medium, and small screen. The company will invest in the distribution and completion of paradigm challenging and consciousness expanding visual content. Mangurama’s films are the next generation of mind, body, spirit documentaries, covering not only spirituality, eastern philosophy, yoga and meditation, but also economics, politics, philosophy, sexuality and aspects of the human existence.
An R2W Films Production in association with Rockhopper Productions and Filmwrights
SUMMER IN THE FOREST
Director of Photography
LAURENT BEN NAHIM
ISSA J. QUMSYAH
Drone Operators for Les Dronographes
Bethlehem Drone Operator
HANNA ABU SADA
MUSIC PERFORMED BY
Saxophone, Bass, Keyboards
Guitars and Banjo
THE DREAMLAND ORCHESTRA
Assistant Online Editor
DI Conform Editors
Sound Re-Recording Mixer
Sound FX Editor
Post Production Manager
Press and Publicity
WITH SPECIAL THANKS TO
Lord Mervyn Davies
Fr Christopher Jamison OSB
Peter Weil CTVC
The International Foundation of L’Arche:
Mahera Nassar Ghareeb
Amal Abu Zalaf
Library and Archives Canada
Décors naturels de la forêt dominiale de Compiègne, gérés par l’Office National des Forêts
Sahar El Laiali
Composed by the Rahbani Brothers
Samra Ya Samra
Composed by: Karem Mahmoud
Gen Du Pays
Composed by: Gilles Vigneault. Licensed courtesy of: Gilles Vigneault
ORIGINAL MUSIC SCORE
by John Harle
Published by Chester Music Limited
Lyrics by Charles Hart. Music by John Harle. Sung by Paul Jones
In Memory of Pauline Dinah Wright
© 2016 R2W Films Ltd