A new movie about the heady days of Mexico 1986 when Northern Ireland met the mighty Brazil in the World Cup finals is currently being filmed in Belfast.
Produced by the award winning New Black Films which includes Oscar-winning producer Victoria Gregory (Battle of the Sexes, Senna, Man on Wire) and director James Erskine (One Night in Turin, From the Ashes), their latest film ‘Shooting for Socrates’ is tipped to become a new classic feel-good movie.
‘Shooting for Socrates’ is a David versus Goliath story set in Belfast against the backdrop of the World Cup. Starring Four Weddings and a Funeral Actor John Hannah as Billy Bingham, Conleth Hill (Whatever Works, Game of Thrones) as Jackie Fullerton and ‘The Commitments’ Bronagh Gallagher, it tells the story of a momentous time in Northern Ireland’s football history through the eyes of players, fans and members of the media.
The film also follows the lives of a passionate football supporter Arthur and his son Tommy from East Belfast. The lead up to a momentous day in the life of the young boy (his 10th birthday) mirrors the build up to the big day for the Northern Ireland team when they play the greatest match of their lives against Brazil.
Richard Dormer has been cast as Arthur, a Greek Philosophy loving Harland and Wolff crane operator. Donegal actor, 11 year old Art Parkinson, plays the young son Tommy who tries to make sense of the world through his love of the beautiful game. The film also features the wit and wisdom of Brazil’s chain-smoking footballing genius, Socrates de Souza who, like his ancient namesake, is something of a philosopher.
For the past two weeks cast and crew have been filming in locations throughout Belfast. Before heading to Spain to shoot the scenes set in Mexico, the cast will be filming at Windsor Park, the legendary home of the Northern Ireland Football team. In an emotional farewell to the Windsor Park stadium which is soon to be demolished and redeveloped, the cast will recreate the England versus Northern Ireland match which, against all the odds, gained them their place at the World Cup Finals. The stadium is currently home of Linfield FC who have been delighted to play host to the cast and crew to recreate the momentous match which changed the fortunes of the Northern Ireland team.
The idea for the film was conceived two and a half years ago at the Cannes Film Festival when award-winning Director James Erskine met former Northern Ireland player David Campbell. Asking what was his greatest moment in sport, James was astonished when David told him it had to be when he played against the greatest team in football history, the ‘mighty Brazil’ when Northern Ireland were at that time the smallest country ever to play in the World Cup Finals.
James said: “For me this told the perfect story about how sport can inspire and change. Northern Ireland in 1986 was full of troubles, yet for a select band of brothers they could play against the gods of football. No dream is bigger than that in football. And when I realised that Socrates was the captain of Brazil – it really emphasised to me how this really was a classical story of men taking on the gods, and learning about their own lives.”
The chance meeting between the director and footballer developed into an idea which 4Rights (a division of Channel Four) and Northern Ireland Screen were delighted to support financially with the project given the green light earlier this year. Filming began in November and it is hoped the movie will be released in May 2014 to coincide with next years’ World Cup, set appropriately in Brazil. In a further fateful coincidence, the World Cup starts in 2014 on the exact date Northern Ireland played Brazil in 1986.
‘Shooting for Socrates’ is a celebration of how sport can unify a nation with the comedy, brought through an array of warm Northern Ireland characters, counter balancing with the poignancy of this unique moment in Northern Ireland history.
The script has been written by award winning writer Marie Jones whose work ‘Stones in his Pockets’ is due for a re-release on Broadway next year. The keen football fan has also written the celebrated football-related play ‘A Night in November’.
Richard Williams, CEO, Northern Ireland Screen Richard Williams, CEO, Northern Ireland Screen, said: “We are delighted to welcome New Black Films to film Shooting for Socrates in Northern Ireland, particularly as the script is from one of our foremost writers, Marie Jones. Good screenplays are the life-blood of our industry and Northern Ireland Screen’s support for both the development and production of this project is born out of our continued commitment to develop a dynamic and vibrant screen industry and culture in Northern Ireland.”
4Rights, the rights exploitation arm of Channel 4, also funded the new movie. 4Rights have previously worked with New Black Films on the feature Doc Pantani: The Accidental Death of a Cyclist, which is due for release in 2014, and the critically acclaimed Battle of the Sexes.
The film will be sold internationally by Metro International Sales.
David Campbell added that the footballing world was looking forward to ‘Shooting for Socrates’ release: “There is a real buzz about this film. I met with FIFA Vice President Jim Boyce a few weeks ago who is of course from Northern Ireland and he is extremely excited that the genuine achievements of our team will be demonstrated to the world through this film”. He added “This is more than a football film, it shows a moment in our history when we achieved something brilliant, when we were put in front of the world and despite what was going on politically at that time were able to show how the whole of Ireland get behind us with good humour and passion. It’s a unique and up-lifting story”.