Belfast rolls out the red carpet as Oscar winners jet in for local film

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Tinseltown it's not well not yet at least. But tonight sees Belfast take the latest step in a mission to carve out for itself a small but distinctive niche in the international film industry.

A collection of Academy Award winners will be in town for the premiere of the latest film associated with the city. Closing the Ring is the story of an American bomber that came down in the hills above Belfast during the Second World War and was directed by Richard Attenborough.

The Hollywood actress Mischa Barton will be attending, along with Oscar winners Shirley MacLaine and Brenda Fricker.

Belfast, not normally associated with movie glamour, is actually becoming accustomed to encounters with such glitterati as film-makers develop a taste for its unique character.

The American actors Bill Murray and Tim Robbins visited recently, with Lost in Translation star Murray charming diners in a local restaurant. The actress Heather Graham also shot scenes in the city centre earlier this year for the film Beg, Borrow or Steal.

Ben Kingsley has also been to the city for a movie entitled Man on the Run, which is based on the memoirs of Marty McGartland, a one-time republican activist who narrowly escaped with his life after the IRA discovered he was an agent for the British government.

Films about IRA activities have been shot in the city before, and locals argue over which actors had the worst Belfast accents: the top contenders are Brad Pitt in The Devil's Own and Richard Gere in The Jackal.

Those who make films in Belfast generally have fond memories of working there. According to one of these, the producer Mark Huffam, the city can provide top class technical expertise. "I firmly believe that Northern Irish producers and crews are amongst the best in the world," he said.

Yesterday, MacLaine said she had had no qualms about working in Belfast. "When I decided to do this movie I knew [about] the Troubles... I've had a lot of friends who worked here and I knew how the movie industry was flourishing."

Closing the Ring is loosely based on the story of an American aircraft which crashed near Belfast with the loss of all 10 crew. A memorial in north Belfast commemorates the event. Years later, a local man discovered an engraved ring at the crash site. The film is billed as "a deeply moving love story of an American woman who honours a wartime promise of love with a lifetime of heartache until the discovery of a gold ring reawakens her".