Cinemagic's new feature film Grace and Goliath pulls on the heartstrings

As this year's Cinemagic Festival kicks off tonight with the world premiere of Grace and Goliath, a film made by young trainees alongside professional and upcoming actors, Jenny Lee previews what sights and sounds can be found in this year's programme

The 29th Cinemagic Film and Television Festival for Young People takes place in Belfast this month and next

IT'S Cinemagic time again, with a month-long programme of film screenings, masterclasses, workshops and special events aimed at offering children and young people an insight into the magic of film, television and digital technologies.

The 29th Cinemagic Film and Television Festival for Young People kicks off tonight with a giant of a movie. Grace and Goliath tells the story of a Hollywood movie star Josh Jenkins (Emy Aneke) who is stranded and penniless in Belfast after a movie goes wrong. His giant ego is challenged by a host of characters, including a little girl called Grace (Savanna Burney Keatings), her father Marcus (Ciarán McMenamin), mother Mel (Aoibhinn McGinnity) and grandmother Lily (Olivia Nash).

"Lily is a wee Belfast woman and like all wee Belfast women she is intelligent, perceptive and totally devoted to her family," says veteran actress and comedienne Nash.

Other cast members include young Banbridge actor Isaac Heslip, whose credits include My Mother and Other Strangers and Game of Thrones.

"I think this film really shows the power of people when they come together to help one another. It shows how precious life can be and how your circumstances can change in an instant," says Isaac, who plays Billy Robert, Grace's older brother.

Following in the success of their 2015 film Christmas Star, Grace and Goliath once again provided invaluable hands-on experience to 48 aspiring film-makers between the ages of 17 and 25. Under the guidance of director Tony Mitchell (The Bible, Primeval), the trainees gained their first feature film credit in areas of directing, production, costume, make-up, sound, lighting and music composition.

Grace and Goliath, which will be on general releases in cinemas from Friday October 5, was filmed in Belfast and on the north coast, with familiar locations including The Europa Hotel, Windsor Park Football Stadium and Barry's Amusements in Portrush.

"The film is like a love letter to Northern Ireland – it showcases locations that are breathtaking, and it reflects the spirit of the people," says Joan Burney Keatings, producer of Grace and Goliath and chief executive of Cinemagic.

The opening weekend of the Cinemagic Festival will also be marked with a special preview of Smallfoot, the much-anticipated animated adventure from Warner Bros, about a bright young yeti.

Highlights of the children’s features include Captain Morten and the Spider Queen, Jim Button and Luke the Engine Driver and Next Door Spy. The New World Cinema strand presents 12 thought-provoking features, including graphic novel adaptation Virus Tropical and Zooks, a contemporary fairytale about people and nature.

Fans of animation shouldn’t miss the Super Dark Tales thread of the programme with screenings of the amusing and macabre Zombellenium, the thrilling adventure Tito And The Birds, and Hoffmaniada, a stop-motion fantasy from Russia based on three of ETA Hoffmann’s tales.

The Ulster Museum will host an eclectic series of films and special events for all the family. The Master Storytellers focus is on EB White and films based on the novels Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little are on offer accompanied with arts and crafts workshops.

Celebrating the Dippy on Tour exhibition, dinosaur fans will have a roaring time at a programme of special themed events including the movies Ice Age: Dawn of The Dinosaurs, The Land Before Time and Early Man. There will also be dino drama, music from the music and dino comic book making. The museum will also host creativity workshops with Aardman Animation model making and special effects make-up.

Guests from the world of film and television taking part in Q&As and hosting masterclasses include: Nora Twomey and Paul Young – the creatives behind Oscar-nominated animation studio, Cartoon Saloon (The Secret of Kells, Song of the Sea, The Breadwinner); Oscar-nominated music composer George Fenton (Groundhog Day, Gandhi, You’ve Got Mail); film critic Mark Kermode, returning for his 14th visit to Cinemagic, Emmy award-winning Casting Director Carla Stronge (Game of Thrones, The Fall, The Secret, Derry Girls); directors David Caffrey (Divorcing Jack, Line of Duty, Love/Hate) and Coronation Street actress Lucy Fallon.

:: For full details about Cinemagic Festival 2018 visit

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