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England - English Summer Forest“Summer in the Forest” is a new documentary that focuses on Jean Vanier, a real-life activist who works with the mentally disabled. Vanier was the first person to successfully secure the release of a mentally disabled person who had been confined in a mental asylum.

Vanier was born in Geneva while his Canadian father was working in the diplomatic service in Switzerland. Vanier was educated in Canada, England and France and joined the Royal Navy at England’s Dartmouth Naval College at the age of 13. When World War II broke out, Vanier and his family fled Paris just before the Nazis began their occupation of the city.

When the war ended, Vanier joined his mother in assisting the survivors of the Nazi concentration camps. His experience with the victims changed him forever, and those experiences were part of what led him to establish L’Arche in 1964.

Through the 1960’s, people with mental disabilities were locked away in often violent asylums. After Vanier became aware of the plight of these people, he invited Raphael Simi and Philippe Seux to come live with him in Trosly-Breuil, France. Vanier nicknamed the house the three men lived in “L’Arche” after Noah’s Ark. Their simple friendship grew to become a new way for mentally disable people to live. Today, L’Arche works with mentally disabled people and their caretakers in more than 145 communities in 35 countries across five continents.

“Summer in the Forest” contains interviews with Vanier and gives outsiders a glimpse into the lives that disable people lead in L’Arche communities. According to the official synopsis, “’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 reveals 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.”

The film premiered in the U.K. in the summer of 2017, but now this touching documentary is making its way across the pond. The trailer is now available online, and the full documentary is coming soon to the United States. Take a few minutes away from the daily grind and lose yourself the forest with Jean Vanier.

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