Wednesday May 10, 2017

Sanctuary is a new Irish film that has already changed history

Irish film Sanctuary made history when it helped overturn a law in the country that wouldn't allow people with mental disabilities have sex unless they were married.

Irish film Sanctuary made history when it helped overturn a law in the country that wouldn't allow people with mental disabilities have sex unless they were married. (Courtesy of Len Collin)

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Movies can have big impacts on people's lives, but not many films can say they've actually changed the law. 

Enter Irish film Sanctuary, about a couple who want to be together but face huge obstacles. The film's protagonists, Larry and Sophie, have Down Syndrome and severe epilepsy, respectively. (The film's entire cast is made up of actors with mental disabilities.) And since they both have mental disabilities, under Irish law, they're not allowed to have sex unless they're married — at least that was the case when this fictional film was shot a few years ago.

On Feb. 14, that law was changed thanks to the work of Inclusion Ireland and other lobbyists. The film was cited as one of the reasons behind that decision.

"When you look at Sanctuary, it's the first time that it's a story told about them, by them," director Len Collin says, of representing mental disabilities in film. Colin adds that the film industry is still far from breaking through with stories that reflect people and actors with disabilities, but that "it always takes someone to make the first film, and maybe this is the first film that's going to crossover to the mainstream."

Sanctuary makes its Canadian premiere Thursday, May 11, at the ReelAbilities Film Festival in Toronto. For more information about the screening head over here.

— Produced by Jean Kim