Northern Ireland news

‘Elephant angel' movie to start filming in Belfast

Zoo will be based on the true story of Sheila the elephant
Gareth McKeown

A MOVIE about Belfast's "Elephant Angel" is set to start filming next month.

Zoo is based on the true story of how Denise Austin, a keeper at Belfast Zoo during the Blitz in 1941, sheltered a baby elephant named Sheila in the back yard of her terraced house in the north of the city.

The £2.8m film, which features an all-Irish cast and crew, is to start shooting in Belfast on August 22.

The actors include Game of Thrones star Art Parkinson along with Dame Penelope Wilton, Ian McIlhinney and Amy Huberman.

Northern Ireland-based producer John Leslie, originally from Ballymoney, said filming will run for five weeks and take in locations including Belfast Zoo, the grounds of Belfast Castle and the docks beside HMS Caroline.

The set will then be transported by sea to Canada, where a further week of shooting will take place in Hamilton, Ontario.

The movie is set to be released in March next year and feature at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.

An online fundraising appeal to support the production closed at the weekend with more than £12,000 gathered.

"It sounds extraordinary on a £2.8m budget film, but donations would make a massive difference. It's such a wonderful story here and I've got the opportunity and I want to do it right," Mr Leslie said.

A concept image for feature film 'Zoo'. Filming is due to start in Belfast next month and run for five weeks, with locations including Belfast Zoo and Belfast Castle

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