Many people will recall the wonderful animated film "The Man Who Planted Trees" by the Canadian artist Frederic Back. The film charmed millions, including the Academy Award judges of 1987. Based on an allegorical story by french author Jean Giono, the film uses Back's delightful drawings to describe the life of Elzeard Bouffier, a shepherd who single-handedly re-forested a desolate valley in the foothills of the Alps.
Giono's story was published under several titles: "The Man Who Planted Trees", "The Story of Elzeard Bouffier, the Most Extraordinary Character I Ever Met", and "The Man Who Planted Hope and Reaped Happiness".
Frederic Back is a Canadian national treasure. He is a great artist, award winning filmmaker, passionate conservationist and dreamer. Back uses his memories, his talent and his love affair with nature to gently transport his audience to a place of great possibility. Even the titles on his webpage excite - "Picture a Greener Future Contest", "Learning About First Peoples" and "The World Cultures Section: An Illustrated Travelogue". On his website, Frederic invites children of all ages to share their artwork, ideas and their inspirations. The power of his narrative memory is in its beauty and longing for a better, greener, gentler world.
Here, Frederic remembers the generosity of his mother:
A welcoming home
I told them my father was a musician and my mother an excellent cook, and brought many of them home. My kind mother always made something good. But one day a small orchestra - five musicians - came with me. I can still see them, climbing the five floors to our apartment with the bass drum, the cymbals, the cello and the rest of their gear! My mother's eyes opened wide, but she got them settled, peeled potatoes and found a few eggs to give them a good feast. Getting home from work, my father was very surprised to see the instruments piled in the landing and so many people at the table! But soon they were talking about what was happening to traditional music and the many, often talented musicians who played it. My parents didn't scold me, for they were very hospitable and sympathized with anyone in need, just as they welcomed the lost birds, dogs and cats I brought home. We always had several cats and for a few years we had a magpie that used to sit on my shoulder and noisily tell me its life story. It pulled out the fur of the cats sleeping under a sheet of newspaper, and every morning the cats would look for the little pieces of meat the magpie had hidden in its cage.
The family movement of parents of children with disabilities have a natural and deep understanding of Frederic Back's intentions. We champion the idea that beauty is not disposable and that its longevity is worth fighting for. There is much to learned from nature and the everyday life of a loving family.
For 86 years, Frederic Back has used his extraordinary talents in combination with a loving, generous spirit to nudge his public into creating a kinder world. Long may he live.