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Changing attitudes and the law for individuals with intellectual disabilities

Case study: Changing attitudes and the law for individuals with intellectual disabilities, through authentic casting in film production

Staff: Len Collin

There is a persistent and chronic absence of authentic representation of intellectual disability (ID) in TV and film. Portrayals that do appear are often regressive, reinforcing negative or inaccurate stereotypes. Practice-led research undertaken at Northumbria University by academic and film director Len Collin, led to the production of Sanctuary (2016), a critically acclaimed feature film employing a cast of actors with ID that has been shown on every continent and received 4 international awards. Through the making of Sanctuary, Collin’s research has 1)played a significant role in raising awareness of the marginalised status of actors with ID across the film industry. This improved profile has 2) helped to increase the use of authentic casting in recent productions and empowered actors with ID in their career pursuits. Similar developments were replicated in a major UK care service, 3) who changed their practices in response to Sanctuary, creating new opportunities for individuals who use their service to enjoy a greater degree of autonomy and ability to shape the structure of their care provision. Finally, 4) Collin’s work played an instrumental role in repealing Irish legislation that had restricted the rights of people with ID to intimacy, a vital contribution recognised by advocacy groups and Ireland’s Minister for Disabilities.


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