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A planned film about the life of Precious McKenzie, the black weightlifter who fled apartheid South Africa so he could compete internationally, is seeking backers at the Cannes Film Festival.

Tauranga-based Lance Morcan, 59, and son James, 29, who penned the screenplay and formed their own production company to get McKenzie on the big screen, said today they aimed to start shooting on location in South Africa by early November.

They were fielding inquiries from film financiers and distributors in the United States, Britain and South Africa, and their American producer representative would be promoting the project at the Cannes festival, which starts tomorrow.

"It's hoped Precious McKenzie, who is currently in the UK on business, will make a special appearance at Cannes to talk to interested film financiers," Lance Morcan said.

Morcan and his Sydney-based son had formed their own production company after the McKenzie project "languished in development hell for five years".

"We made the mistake of optioning it to a UK production company which, in hindsight, had no chance of getting this film made."

Morcan said when the film's option expired late last year, it was a "no-brainer" for James and him to produce it themselves.

McKenzie quit South Africa in 1964 and went on to win four consecutive Commonwealth Games gold medals.

He won three for England, then one for New Zealand, in Edmonton, Canada, in 1978, as a bantamweight.

Before emigrating to New Zealand, he also represented Britain at three Olympic Games and was five times world powerlifting champion.

"Precious' story, which is set in South Africa's tumultuous apartheid era, ranks right up there beside history's greatest examples of the human spirit triumphing over immense hardship," Morcan said.

"It's the ultimate underdog story and a testimony to one man's indomitable spirit. No matter how bad things get, be it extreme poverty, violence, racial hatred, Precious remains unbreakable."

Morcan said he and his son hoped to announce an A-list Hollywood director to helm the film soon and South African actor Desmond Dube (Hotel Rwanda) and African-American Guy Torry (American History X) had both expressed interest in playing the lead role.