‘It Changed My Life.’ An Interview With the Director of ‘Summer in the Forest’

‘It Changed My Life.’ An Interview With the Director of ‘Summer in the Forest’ March 24, 2018
Michel from Summer in the Forest, photo courtesy Abramorama Films

Asay: In the movie, Jean says that “Love is not a utopia; it’s a hope of bringing people together.” And I think that’s reflected in the movie. Love is difficult. It’s challenging. And there aren’t really any shortcuts.

Wright: I love that quote. Jean is not an optimist. He’s a realist with hope. And that hope is real, the love is real.

One of the things I really wanted [to do with this movie was challenge] the whole form of documentary. A documentary film is usually about an issue. It’s usually about a problem, and the film usually offers a solution to the problem. What I wanted was to make a film about what Jean’s offering as a solution, which is to actually meet people. He’s challenging us to meet someone who’s different than us.

Everybody’s different from us in very many ways. … But if I wanted to get out of my group I’d have to meet people who would be completely different to me, who would have completely different lives. And that is a very, very difficult thing to do. But that is exactly what Jean is asking me to do. And it’s changed my life. I’m very much aware that that’s what I need to do.

Asay: In the film, Vanier tells us that to be present is to take time. And to even waste time with someone. And that helps us to become the people who, in his words, we’re called to be. It seems as though making a documentary, especially a documentary as personal as this, is a little like that—taking the time to notice things that you might not otherwise. Would you say that’s fair?

Wright: I think the thing that happens every so often when you make films is that you regain your innocence. You look at the world with an innocent eye. And you realize that something that is happening in front of you is much more important than perhaps if you looked at it with a rather jaundiced eye. … I think there’s something about going into a place where you stop pretending that wakes you up and allows you to see a little more clearly.

[Filming this documentary] was an amazing time in my life, and I feel like I’ve learned an enormous amount from it. I think I’ve regained a sort of, I think, hope’s the right word. A sort of hopefulness.

One of the reasons why this film was picked up by an incredible distributor … All these things are incredibly relevant to the United Kingdom and America.  Where we’re so terrified of our cultures as it were being in competition with other parts of the world. We’re so obsessed with how we’re performing economically and somehow, we’ve lost the confidence to think in a broader way. I’m not saying everyone or everywhere, but there is a sort of beleaguered quality and fear that that is in our society. I think that’s a big thing that Jean Vanier is offering us: A sort of wakeup call.

***

Summer in the Forest opened this weekend in New York City. It’ll premiere in the Los Angeles area April 6 and roll out to other theaters across the country the following week.

 

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