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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 November 2006, 14:31 GMT
BBC to make meerkat feature film
Meerkats at London Zoo
Meerkats are a member of the mongoose family
The BBC's Natural History Unit is to make a movie following a family of meerkats in the heart of Africa.

It will be the first time the unit, which is responsible for Planet Earth and The Blue Planet, has set out with the intention of making a feature film.

Previous movies, such as Deep Blue, have been developed from footage shot for the BBC's television channels.

The Meerkats starts filming in the Kalahari desert later this month funded by BBC Films and The Weinstein Company.

It looks at the daily life of the charismatic mammals as they struggle to survive in one of the harshest environments on the planet.

Filming is expected to last several months, and will be "up to the BBC's usual standards, which are pretty amazing," said a spokesman.

"The film has huge emotional appeal and will really travel internationally," said David Thompson, head of BBC Films.

"It's a great story, with a fantastic team behind it, and we hope this will be the start of a great partnership for the future."

Harvey Weinstein, whose former company Miramax was behind films such as Pulp Fiction, The English Patient and The Cider House Rules, said he was "thrilled" to be working with the BBC.

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