Page last updated at 17:01 GMT, Friday, 20 February 2009

NI film based on tragic killing

By Maggie Taggart
Arts correspondent

So many murders during the Northern Ireland Troubles have obviously left living casualties.

Liam Neeson
Liam Neeson plays the part of a loyalist killer

Now, a fiction inspired by the experiences of a perpetrator and a victim is to be screened on BBC television.

Hollywood star Liam Neeson and award-winning actor James Nesbitt filmed the movie in Northern Ireland.

In 1975 a 17-year-old loyalist murdered a 19-year-old Catholic in Lurgan.

The murder was witnessed by the victim's 11-year-old brother.

Five Minutes Of Heaven catches up with the two characters in the present day as a television programme attempts to get them together.

In a tense drama, Liam Neeson plays the murderer, who appears self-confident and at ease with himself.

By contrast, James Nesbitt plays the man who, as a boy, witnessed his brother's killing.

James Neeson
James Nesbitt plays a witness to the murder of his character's brother

At times he seems agitated and still badly affected by the repercussions of the murder.

The real life events inspired the drama, but the film-makers say it is essentially fiction.

Nesbitt as Joe Griffin worries about the plan to meet the man who has caused such heartache throughout his life.

Neeson's character, Alistair Little, served a sentence for the murder.

Despite weaving the story around plans for the two men to confront each other on television, the two real life characters never met, even though they collaborated with the film makers.

Before making the film James Nesbitt chose to meet his character while Liam Neeson waited until after filming had finished.

The filmmakers say they have worked closely with the real life characters, but do not claim this is about reconciliation.

The film has already won awards at the Sundance film Festival and is due to be screened on BBC in the early spring.

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