Northern Ireland

A Christmas Star: Locally made film to premiere in Belfast

Liam Neeson Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Liam Neeson, who narrates 'A Christmas Story', hopes that people will get behind the film

It's early November but Northern Ireland-born actor Liam Neeson said there is "this little bit of magic in the air."

"I'm talking about Christmas," the Ballymena man said. "You know, cinema can certainly create that."

The actor was referring to his latest film A Christmas Star, Northern Ireland and Ireland's first locally made Christmas movie.

The film premieres on Wednesday and is backed by Belfast-based Cinemagic.

Neeson, a patron of the charity, believes that film can "break down barriers".

"It's a powerful medium, it really is," he said.

"I've seen kids from the Lower Bronx, inner city Dublin, on these Cinemagic two-week courses.. their communication skills improve, their literacy skills in school improve. It's all a win-win situation."

A Christmas Star is narrated by Neeson and features a cast of new, young Irish actors.

They appear alongside stars such as Pierce Brosnan, Bronagh Waugh, Richard Clements, Kylie Minogue, and Downton Abbey's Robert James-Collier and Julian Fellowes.

Forty members of the film's crew were aged between 18 and 25 and the cast of eleven children were chosen from thousands that responded to the open casting call.

Northern Ireland actress Bronagh Waugh stars in the movie.

Known for her roles in The Fall and Hollyoaks, she said that the project was an "amazing" idea for young talent.

"You know there's no drama schools over here and there's no crew schools," Waugh told the BBC.

"So if you want to work in the industry, how do you get into it? You need your first credit.

"I just think that the whole concept of this - to make it by young people for young people, and give them their first credit so they can go on to work in the industry - what a great idea and I would fully support that."

Richard Clements agrees with Waugh.

"When I was a young actor, all we had at our disposal was youth theatre. So we all grew up doing theatre," he said.

"If only I had had an organisation like Cinemagic at my disposal back then to stretch yourself further as an actor. You know, stepping out into the sometimes daunting world of TV and film."

Cinemagic's Joan Burney Keatings hopes that people will 'get behind' the film.

She said it was the "first Northern Irish and Irish Christmas film".

"The objective is to show people that anything is possible when you work hard, you dream, and you don't give up."

The movie centres around a young girl named Noelle.

Born in dramatic circumstances under a Christmas star, she believes she has the ability to perform miracles.

Noelle teams up with a group of local kids, who take on a developer trying to demolish her village.

Julian Fellowes is a patron of Cinemagic.

"I think it's a lovely film," Fellowes said.

"I found it funny and warm and it makes you cry, and all the things you want from a film like that. I think it'll be a classic."

Image copyright University of Winchester
Image caption Julian Fellowes, creator of Downton Abbey, is a long term patron of Cinemagic

Fellowes said there are valuable lessons to be learned from the project.

"Show business, despite what it looks like from the stalls, is a big business of saying no and you have to go through a lot of nos before you get to your yes," he siad.

"This is such an inspiration. You just don't have to listen to the nos, you just must push through."

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