(BBC/Element Films/Bord Scannán na hÉirean) 2009
Five Minutes of Heaven is the third of the trilogy of international award-winning movies which Mullan played influential roles in producing about the beginning (Bloody Sunday 1972), end (Omagh 1998), and aftermath of the Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’ (Five Minutes of Heaven, 2009). The latter explores the complex issues associated with reconciliation and forgiveness in a post-conflict society.
The screenwriter of Omagh, Guy Hibbert, recommended that the makers of Five Minutes of Heaven engage the services of Don Mullan. Mullan was Associate Producer, playing a key role in securing the cooperation, and retaining the confidence, of Joe Griffin, played by James Nesbitt in the movie. Griffin, as a 10-year-old boy witnessed the murder of his 19-year-old brother, Jim, at the hands of 17-year-old loyalist, Alistair Little in 1975. Little, played by Liam Neeson, also co-operated in the making of the movie.
Mullan clashed with director Oliver Hirschbiegel at the conclusion of the filmmaking process, objecting strongly to the director’s ending. Despite the fact that Mullan had been invited to view a ‘locked’ version of the movie at Ardmore Studios, Co. Wicklow, his intervention forced a change of emphasis before the movie was released. Mullan, in a letter written to the movie’s Producers and Executive Producers, argued that Hierschbiegel’s ending would be a betrayal of the trust that Joe Griffin and Alastair Little had invested in the filmmakers, as well as a skewed understanding of the nature of reconciliation in a post-conflict society. The German director’s ending suggested that the victim was, in this instance, liberated by the perpetrator, a conclusion that Mullan knew neither Little nor Griffin would ascribe to.
While Alastair Little was prepared to meet Joe Griffin during the process of making the movie, Joe Griffin found himself unable to meet his brother’s killer. Referring to the psychological damage the murder did to his mother, who later blamed her young son for not stopping Little, Griffin told Mullan, “I can forgive Alastair for what he did to Jim. But I can’t forgive him for what he did to my mother and what my mother did to me.”
Five Minutes of Heaven premiered at the 25th Sundance Film Festival, winning the World Cinema Dramatic Directing Award and the World Cinema Screenwriting Award.