Camp Papillon

Documentary
French (Available subtitled in French)

Region: Quebec

Year of Production: 2018

Camp Papillon, located on the shores of Lac Pierre in the Rawdon region of Quebec, is one of the largest summer camps for the mentally and physically challenged in North America. The camp provides a break for families and specialized educators with a full program of exciting activities: canoe-camping, horseback riding, visit to the zoo, restaurant or amusement park, zipline, robotics, and a multi-day trip on the Caravane Papillon RV to Niagara Falls or the Gaspé.

During the summer months, about 100 children and adults with physical and severe intellectual disabilities enjoy the vacation of their dreams, a few weeks in the company of 16-to-20-year-old camp counsellors (70% are female). During their stay, the campers are each paired with one counsellor who looks after their every need. Some counsellors do throw in the towel after the first few days, but those who remain are forever transformed by the experience.

What drives teenagers (who get only basic two-day training before working at camp) often accused of being individualistic and living vicariously on social media to spend close to three months working for minimum wage, changing diapers on self-mutilating adults, risk being bitten, comforting campers with Down syndrome in crisis, spending their weekly salary to bring a group of 20 intellectually challenged campers to La Ronde, fight tooth and nail to get a cook in a crowded restaurant to put poutine through a blender so that someone with severe autism who’s always dreamt of eating poutine can finally do so without risk of choking?

What you get is an intimate, crazy, explosive, and moving documentary on the close-knit relationship between the young camp counsellors and their intellectually disabled, autistic, and multi-handicapped campers, who, for a few months and each in their own way, live one of the most memorable experiences of their lives, a powerful, liberating, and emotionally overwhelming formative experience.

In true cinéma-vérité style, from the arrival of the gang in total chaos to the last day when the young counsellors go back to school with heavy hearts and the campers return to their specialized-care facilities or families, we get to see a full summer season of human-interest stories, each with their share of dramas and victories.

PRODUCTION COMPANY: Les productions Lustitia inc