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Saturday 28 Mar 2009

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Neeson and Nesbitt star in Sundance award-winning drama, Five Minutes Of Heaven

Five Minutes Of Heaven: (L-R) Liam Neeson as Alistair Little and James Nesbitt as Joe Griffin

James Nesbitt and Liam Neeson star in award-winning director Oliver Hirschbiegel's Five Minutes Of Heaven, a unique one-off drama for BBC Two that explores aspects of Northern Ireland's troubled past and the challenges the future holds in coming to terms with it.

The story begins in 1975 when 17-year-old Alistair Little, a member of the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force) murdered a 19-year-old Catholic, Jim Griffin, in Lurgan. He was arrested two weeks later, along with three others involved in the shooting, and convicted. Jim's murder was witnessed by his 11-year-old brother, Joe Griffin.

Five Minutes Of Heaven, directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel (Downfall) and written by Guy Hibbert (Omagh) is a fiction inspired by real people.

Working closely with both men, screenwriter Guy Hibbert creates a unique and compelling film that moves from a powerful re-enactment of these tragic events to a fictional interpretation of what might happen should these two men ever come face-to-face. The film explores the impact of the legacy of violence on both men.

Interviews with Joe and Alistair have taken place with their full consent over a three-year period in a series of separate consultations with writer Guy Hibbert. In real life Joe and Alistair have never met.

The drama, to be screened on BBC Two in April, recently won two awards at the Sundance Film Festival, including the World Cinema Screenwriting Award for Guy Hibbert and the World Cinema Directing Award for Oliver Hirschbiegel.

Producer Stephen Wright, from BBC Northern Ireland drama, said: "It is important to clearly understand from the two men's point of view what this film is about. It is about the complex psychological relationship that exists between the perpetrator of a crime and the victim.

"It is not about truth and reconciliation. It is not about finding easy answers. Both men independently say that making the film has been a painful but worthwhile process. It will have particular resonance for the Northern Ireland audience but it will also have meaning for other societies that have faced conflict."

Peter Johnston, Controller, BBC Northern Ireland, said: "I believe we have created a responsible drama, putting Alistair and Joe at the heart of the creative and consultative process and in doing so capturing something of Northern Ireland at this point in its history. The drama challenges us very directly to think about the legacy of our past."

Joe Griffin is played by BAFTA-nominated actor James Nesbitt (Murphy's Law, Bloody Sunday). The role of Alistair, 30 years on, is played by Liam Neeson, best known for his role as Oskar Schindler in Steven Spielberg's Oscar-winning Schindler's List.

Five Minutes Of Heaven is produced by Eoin O'Callaghan at Big Fish Films and Stephen Wright from BBC Northern Ireland. Executive produced by Patrick Spence from BBC Northern Ireland, Paul Trijbits from Ruby Films and Cameron McCracken from Pathe.

The production was co-financed by Northern Ireland Screen and Element Pictures.

The film was originally commissioned by Jane Tranter, former Controller of Fiction, BBC, and Roly Keating, former Controller of BBC Two.

GJ

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