IN PICTURES: New movie Grace and Goliath showcases spirit and warmth of Northern Ireland

Mel (Aoibhinn McGinnity) and Josh (Emy Aneke) at Whiterocks Beach Portrush
Mel (Aoibhinn McGinnity) and Josh (Emy Aneke) at Whiterocks Beach Portrush

A new movie which showcases the people and places of Northern Ireland will have its red carpet premiere at the Odyssey Cinema in Belfast tonight.

Grace and Goliath – featuring cameo appearances from Carl Frampton, Patrick Kielty and Barry’s Big Dipper – aims to capture the ‘warmth and spirit’ of the Province.

Having seen a preview of the movie which opens in cinemas to the public on Friday, I can vouch for the movie’s ability to tug at the heartstrings.

It is a refreshing take on what makes Northern Ireland great, and while it could serve as promotional video for tourism purposes as well as a who’s who of local celebrities, it is much more than just a showcase of ‘our wee country’.

The story which acts as the glue for this celebration of life in NI is a superb mix of drama, intrigue, laughter and romance.

It centres on Hollywood A-lister Josh Jenkins, played by Emy Aneke, who ends up stranded and penniless in Belfast. Hotel cleaner Lily, played by Olivia Nash, invites him to stay with her seemingly dysfunctional family and gradually he learns what Northern Ireland is really about – togetherness in the face of adversity.

Aoibhinn McGinnity and director Tony Mitchell

Aoibhinn McGinnity and director Tony Mitchell

The film brilliantly captures the generosity and warmth of Northern Irish people – to the point where a box of tissues could prove handy – while giving the briefest of nods to our troubled past. All the more amazing is the fact this film was produced by a charity – Cinemagic – for under £500,000 in just four weeks.

The premiere marked the official launch of this year’s Cinemagic Film Festival in Belfast – the largest film and television festival designed for, and by, young people in the UK and Ireland.

Screenwriter Maire Campbell told the News Letter how Grace and Goliath came about: “The story was inspired by a cleaner I noticed in work who brought her my granddaughter in with her to look after.

“By bringing an American into the mix, it puts a mirror on Northern Ireland – to look at our culture with fresh eyes.

Laura Whitmore cameo in Grace and Goliath

Laura Whitmore cameo in Grace and Goliath

“We’ve a lot to show the world. For me Northern Ireland is the star of this film.”

Some of the locations showcased in the film are the Europa hotel, Windsor Park football stadium, Barry’s amusements, Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge and The Harbour Bar in Portrush.

Cameo appearances include Carl Frampton, Patrick Kielty, Darren Clarke, Roma Downey and Tommy Bowe. Hundreds of extras from across NI were also involved in the making of the film.

The film’s scriptwriter has already been given a Rising Star award from Irish Screen America for Grace and Goliath, and it is expected the film will go on international release in the very near future.

Josh takes a trip with the family to their caravan at Portrush

Josh takes a trip with the family to their caravan at Portrush

Josh (Emy Aneke) and The Barman (Paddy Jenkins) at The Europa Hotel, Belfast

Josh (Emy Aneke) and The Barman (Paddy Jenkins) at The Europa Hotel, Belfast

Ciaran Hinds (Surgeon) at hospital

Ciaran Hinds (Surgeon) at hospital

Bronagh Waugh in Grace and Goliath in Harbour Bar, Portrush

Bronagh Waugh in Grace and Goliath in Harbour Bar, Portrush

Cheryl O'Dwyer (Wee Maggie) and Big Suzie (Jo Donnelly)

Cheryl O'Dwyer (Wee Maggie) and Big Suzie (Jo Donnelly)