On Feb. 16, Elizabethtown College students had the opportunity to see a film depicting what would happen if a killer and his victim’s brother were to meet several years after the murder. “Five Minutes of Heaven” (2009), starring Liam Neeson and James Nesbitt, is based on the real-life story of Jimmy Griffin’s murder by 17-year-old Ulster Volunteer Force member, Alistair Little. Griffin was killed in front of his little brother outside of their Northern Ireland home in 1975. The film dramatizes what could have been, had the two men met years later. “Five Minutes of Heaven” proved to be a “popular action movie” according to first-year Andrea Keller, a student who attended the screening.
The College has recently shown a variety of documentaries in order to raise awareness of global issues. The main message “Five Minutes of Heaven” presents is conflict transformation. “The topic of conflict transformation was chosen due to the fact that Etown embarked on creating a new office this year to focus on conflict transformation and peacemaking initiatives on campus and beyond,” said Melissa Law-Penrose, program associate for peacemaking initiatives.
The film was chosen to be shown on campus because “it shows how one act of violence in the context of a larger very violent conflict is not an isolated event and its effects will ripple outward to include many more people and span many more years than most people would imagine,” Law-Penrose elaborated. Due to her vast experience and Etown’s supporting efforts, a new course has been added to the College, PCS160: Conflict Resolution Practicum, in which she instructs on messages presented in the film. Also, a peer mediation group has been formed this semester.
Law-Penrose put the viewing of the film together to be shown to a broader audience, and made a point of how conflict transformation impacts Etown students. “First, on the personal level, each person has a way of dealing, or not dealing, with interpersonal conflict. My goal is to help people on campus become aware of their personality and tendencies in relation to conflict and explore ways to make interpersonal conflict at Elizabethtown a positive, life changing and growing experience,” she said.
In terms of lessons students can learn about conflict resolution from “Five Minutes of Heaven,” Law-Penrose said, “Students will take away whatever lessons they need to and it is not my place to prescribe what they should get out of the film. However, what I hope they saw in the film were themes of violence, conflict, reconciliation, identity, our own personal journeys and the interconnectedness of people and events, as well as the paradoxes and conundrums regarding truth, peace, mercy and forgiveness.” She continued, “I hope it will bring home in a real way what dealing with living through violent conflict may be like and the numerous questions and insecurities are left in the aftermath.”
In the near future, Law-Penrose plans on sponsoring events for the College community by incorporating reflection on personal conflict, constructing a sense of purpose from conflict resolution, and developing resolutions to transform conflict into positive community-building experiences. Integrating conflict resolution films such as “Five Minutes of Heaven” hones true feelings on how to deal with emotions and how one can fully express himself or herself through helpful techniques.
For those who missed the screening, the film is available via streaming on Netflix and on DVD.