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Paisley and McGuinness: The Movie is not coming to cinema near you any time soon

By Noel McAdam

A movie about how sworn enemies Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness struck up a surprise friendship has failed to gain a cinema release.

Instead The Journey - starring award-winning actors Timothy Spall and Colm Meaney - may be travelling straight to DVD.

For despite screenings at several international festivals, including Toronto and Venice, the film has not been able to secure a UK distributor.

After appearing at the festivals, it had been reported The Journey would finally arrive on general release in early 2017.

But yesterday it was confirmed there is no date for the production to open in cinemas this year. Movie House boss Michael McAdam said its appearance in local theatres could help provide light relief in the current political climate.

A clip showing former Auf Wiedersehen, Pet star Spall as First Minister Paisley was broadcast on the BBC's Sunday morning Andrew Marr programme last weekend.

Directed by Nick Hamm, it was scripted by Northern Ireland author Colin Bateman.

Mr Bateman said: "A release should be announced soon, probably to coincide with a US release towards the summer.

"It is a slow process, but perfectly normal for the movie business, especially with smaller films.

"They're looking at a global market rather than one small territory."

However, Alex Davies of the London-based Film Distributors Association (FDA) said: "It doesn't appear like there is a UK distributor.

"There hasn't been a confirmed UK release date, but it has played at Venice and Toronto Film Festivals.

"It certainly feels more of a DVD release than theatrical.

"The reason why there is no distributor is anybody's guess, really.

"It's done on a case by case basis, territory by territory.

"It's not unheard of for a title to play at a festival and then not get picked up by a distributor. It could be that, down the line, someone does buy it and we will be contacted accordingly to upload info onto our FDA website.

"But, thus far, we have heard nothing."

Mr McAdam said: "We would love to show this movie and really hope that it gets picked up by a distributor and is released in Northern Ireland.

"I think there will be a lot of interest in the film, in seeing how Colm Meaney plays Martin McGuinness and how Timothy Spall portrays Ian Paisley.

"At a time when political relationships are under severe strain, this fictional film shows a more optimistic time, and could provide light relief and maybe a chuckle or two."

In America it was picked up by major distributor IFC Films. According to reports, it is expected to be released there in the middle of this year.

The Journey tells how the sworn political enemies became known as the 'Chuckle Brothers' after hitting it off when they became Stormont's First Minister and Deputy First Minister.

It also stars Toby Stephens as Prime Minister Tony Blair, Freddie Highmore as a Government employee tasked with chauffering Paisley and McGuinness, as well as John Hurt as an accomplished political fixer.

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