The new film "Summer in the Forest" showcases the beauty displayed in a real-life community where all people, disabled and not, can live and work together in harmony.
The faith-based documentary displays the work of Canadian-born Jean Vanier, a Christian man who started a movement to transform how people live and work together. Vanier founded L'Arche Communities which brings together people with and without intellectual and physical disabilities to live in a community together.
The idea came about after Vanier was exposed to the plight of a people he visited in 1964 at a psychiatric hospital near Paris. These people were often labeled "retards" or "idiots" and locked away as prisoners who were often forgotten.
The man of God then decided to leave his privileged life behind and move to Trosly-Breuil, a village at the edge of a beautiful forest north of Paris. With him, he brought two intellectually disabled men.
That is when L'Arche (French for "The Ark") began. Today there are 147 L'Arche communities in 35 countries which host approximately 5,000 people with disabilities.
The remarkable telling of that story on film, "Summer in the Forest," launched in New York on March 23 to also honor World Down Syndrome Day. It later opened in theaters in Los Angeles on April 6 before a wider release.
The 89-year-old Templeton Prize winner still lives in Trosly-Breuil, where most of the film takes place and says he sees "the Kingdom of God" in each of the people who live at L'Arche.
"The mystery of Jesus is hidden in weak people, fragile people," Vanier said in a statement shared with The Christian Post."
"These are people at the bottom of the ladder of social status. They have taught me about what it means to be a human person — to learn to love and let the barriers down."
The four main characters in the film are Michel, a man tormented by memories of World War II; Andre, who desperately wishes for a date; David, who calls himself a superhero and wants to save the world; and Patrick, an aspiring artist.
"The movie is a tapestry of poignant, interconnecting stories. In one especially memorable scene, Vanier comforts Sebastian, a young man with multiple disabilities who can't speak or move his limbs, after a medical exam. 'Dearest Sebastian, you are beautiful, very, very beautiful,' Vanier says. Sebastian's face lights up with a smile," a description of the film states.
For more information on "Summer in the Forest," directed by Randall Wright, visit the movie's website.