"Five Minutes of Heaven," the new Irish film starring Northern Irish actors Liam Nesson and James Nesbitt, won the coveted World Cinema Directing Award and also the World Cinema Screenwriting Award at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah last weekend, an unprecedented back-to-back coup for the film's writer and director. The new film, which tracks the lives of two Irish men from the same town but from different sides of the political divide, is unlike any other on the subject, avoiding peachiness or simple solutions, and becoming all the more potent for it. One man, Alistair, played by Neeson, is a former killer; the other, Joe, played by Nesbitt, is the brother of the man he killed. One man feels that he dare not ask for forgiveness and the other man feels incapable of giving it. It's the kind of unhappy personal and political stalemate that The Troubles produced by the thousands, and its legacy has rarely been so sensitively captured. Written by Guy Hibbert (who previously wrote the film "Omagh," based on the Real IRA atrocity and its aftermath) and directed by the German filmmaker Oliver Hirschbiegel, "Five Minutes of Heaven" isn't a work of expiation or guilt, and neither does it seek a simplistic solution. It just grapples with what there is and tries to find a way forward. Trevor Groth, senior film programmer for the Sundance Film Festival told the Irish Voice, "(The wins) say a lot about the quality and craft of the film. It's extremely rare for a jury to recognize both the screenwriting and the directing. "The idea of looking at these two men's lives, where they have the opportunity to confront their past, and perhaps even to achieve a measure of reconciliation, is a fascinating scenario. That combination creates a story that is rooted in Northern Ireland's history but is relevant to everyone, because it's about the legacy of violence in any society." An award from Sundance more or less guarantees a distribution deal in the U.S. but it's not guaranteed. "I do think these awards will help," added Groth. "The good news about this film is the two actors, Liam Neeson and James Nesbitt, are at the top of their games. Those caliber actors and winning these awards mean it should be coming to a theater near everyone soon."
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