The MIPMC Research Group at Northumbria University provides a hub for staff and postgraduate researchers who are engaged with the analysis of the moving image and popular media in all its forms, from theoretical, historical, practice-based, industrial and empirical/sociological perspectives
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Len Collin

Sanctuary (2016) Runtime 87 mins

Still from the opening of Sanctuary courtesy of Len Collin with Kieran Coppinger

Sanctuary uses the genre of a Romantic Comedy to explore the themes of agency and intimacy amongst the intellectually disabled in Galway, Ireland. In particular it challenges Section 5 of the Criminal Law Act 1993 (Sexual Offences) which made it illegal for two unmarried adults with ID to have a sexual relationship. The law was repealed in 2017, in part due to the issues highlighted in the film. The story follows Larry, a man with Down’s and Sophie, a woman with epilepsy, who spend an afternoon in an hotel room together. All they want to do is be alone together in a world that wants to keep them apart.

Still from the opening of Sanctuary courtesy of Len Collin featuring Charlene Kelly and Kieran Coppinger

From a research perspective the film was unique in casting actors with intellectual disabilities in leading roles. The film invites the audience into their world through authentic casting. The screenplay was adapted from Christian O’Reilly’s stage play of the same name which was commissioned by Blue Teapot Theatre Company in Galway. The filmmakers then worked with the original cast to further develop the screenplay and of course ultimately the film. This collaborative approach resulted in a film that gave the actors agency in its creation and earned them the prestigious MICHAEL DWYER DISCOVERY AWARD at the Audi Dublin International Film Festival 2017.

The film directed by Len Collin has screened all around the world and been sold to television and VOD platforms worldwide. It has won several awards including:
BEST FEATURE FILM  2018 – MOSCOW, 9th Breaking Down Barriers Film FestivalBEST IRISH FILM 2017 – Dublin Film Critics CircleBEST IRISH FILM 2017 – Irish Times Reader’s Poll (Ticket Awards)BEST DIRECTOR Newport Beach Film Festival USA 2017BEST DEBUT IRISH FILM -Galway Film Fleadh 2016.

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Altered Thinking: An Academic Film Essay (2020). Runtime 100 mins

Still courtesy of Len Collin show Patrick Becker and Michael Hayes

Altered Thinking is a reflexive documentary that looks at the history of disability representation on our screens, mainly through the lens of intellectual disability. It contextualizes the making of Sanctuary and the methodologies used against the prevailing attitudes and methodologies practiced in “Hollywood”. Most notably it challenges the notion of “Cripping up” – essentially an actor without a disability playing a role that could have been played more authentically by an actor with a disability. Arguably there would be no Sanctuary (2016) without a Forrest Gump (1994), but what if we were to cast Paul Connolly from Sanctuary as Forrest Gump… where might that lead us? It also reflects on the real-world impact felt by people with disabilities that is often propagated by harmful tropes and misinformed representations.

Still courtesy of Len Collin – Michael talks to camera.

Altered Thinking: An Academic Film Essay – was released online via Vimeo in December 2020 to a select audience and has had nearly five hundred views. It also Screened at the TAPE – One Film Festival and is likely to screen at other online festivals throughout 2021. It also featured as part of a talk at the Inclusion Around Us Teleconference Moscow, February 2021.

Link to Film

Link to clip