Sanctuary – a film with heart that made history and changed the law


In a filmed interview with Gary Thomas, David Wilkinson of Guerilla Films tells the extraordinary story of Blue Teapot Theatre Company’s award-winning film Sanctuary.

a young woman and a young man face each other in profile

Charlene Kelly and Kieran Coppinger in Sanctuary

Sanctuary tells the story of a love that daren’t speak its name. Larry (Kieran Coppinger) has Down Syndrome and Sophie (Charlene Kelly) has epilepsy. Family, friends and Irish law endeavour to keep them apart but during an outing their care worker, Tom (Robert Doherty ) breaks the rules and against his better judgement books them an afternoon in a hotel. What entails was dubbed by the Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw as “A valuable film with honesty and heart.”

Sanctuary first premiered in the theatre company’s home town of Galway at the 2016 Galway Film Fleadh where it won the award for Best First Irish Feature and was the most talked about film at its UK premiere during the 2017 Oska Bright Film Festival.

Despite repeated 4 and 5 star reviews from a plethora of mainstream press and Wilkinson’s best efforts at getting the film noticed in his bid to handle the films’ UK distribution Sanctuary was consistently refused screenings.

A well known British charity declined the offer of a gala screening rejecting Sanctuary over semantics around the language used in the films’ promotional material referring to ‘intellectual disabilities’, rather than the term ‘learning difficulties’.

The more Wilkinson fought to secure screenings, the more cinema programmers blanked his dogged determination to get the film seen. He contacted every critic he knew to review the film even though it hadn’t secured a London screening, yet despite overwhelmingly positive critical response it was still ignored by the BFI Southbank, whose brief is to program a diversity of films.

Wilkinson’s faith in the film led eventually to vindication when the film helped change the law In Ireland so that it is no longer illegal for an unmarried couple with ‘intellectual disabilities’ to be intimate.

Subtitles for the interview are available by clicking the Subtitles/CC button:

To find out more about Blue Teapot Theatre Company go to their website.