A beautiful study of Jean Vanier and L’Arche

summer in the forest

Jean Vanier who died earlier this year features a documentary being screened in New Zealand this month.

Summer in the Forest Summer is a beautiful and moving study of this extraordinary man and the organisation he founded.

Vanier founded L’Arche, a community based outside of Paris for individuals with developmental disabilities, in the 1960s.

His goal for L’Arche was to create an inclusive community where anyone could live a meaningful life.

He single-handedly revolutionised the way in which people with an intellectual disability are seen and cared for, by the simple act of inviting them out of institutions and into his home.

The film poses a challenge to the critical spectator: how to evaluate a work that’s so inspiring in content but so uninspired in its form?

One of the many highlights of Summer in the Forest is ‘Meeting’ some of the current residents of that home in Trosly-Breuil.

The film also presents Vanier, in his late 80s, as he reflects on his long, productive life.

He comes across as compassionate, wise, and heroically patient, having devoted decades to helping people.

Vanier also seems to have preserved a childlike sense of joy—he claims that play is an important part of his work—and his ability to derive pleasure from everyday moments conveys an enlightened perspective.

The first New Zealand L’Arche Community was founded in Paraparaumu twenty-five years ago.

A second community, L’Arche Mt Tabor, joined the Federation in 2017 after having operated for a number of years as an independent community based on the same principles as L’Arche.

Faith & Light which was co-founded by Vanier also has had a strong presence in New Zealand, having been founded in 1986.

Watch the Trailer for Summer in the Forest

Film screenings:

Auckland: Newmarket Rialto, 31 July 6:00 pm
Palmerston North: Events Cinema, 7 August 6:00 pm
Wellington: Roxy Cinema, 24 July 6:30 pm
Christchurch: Hoyts Northlands, 31 July 6:30 pm


Additional reading

News category: New Zealand, Top Story.

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