Weighty role for a young actress

17:00, Jul 25 2013
Angelina Cottrell
RISING STAR: Angelina Cottrell is starring in The Weight of Elephants which is about to be released in cinemas.

At just 11 years old and with almost no acting experience, Angelina Cottrell is making her big screen debut.

Kiwi film The Weight of Elephants starts showing in cinemas from the end of August after screening at the New Zealand International Film Festival.

Based on an Australian novel it's the story of a young boy with a desperate home life who struggles with his own anxieties after three children from the small town where he lives go missing.

Angelina plays Nicole, who moves in next door to the boy, his mentally ill uncle and overworked grandmother, and a close friendship blossoms between the two youngsters.

The Mt Roskill girl was only 10 when she auditioned for the part.

"I had to go for 10 callbacks," she says. "The casting producer said he knew it was me from about the second time, but they were just testing me out with other people."


The Waikowhai Intermediate School student has had no formal acting classes and her experience only stretched as far as advertising work and television extra roles.

"The movie was quite different because the characters are quite intense.

"It was quite an emotional and deep movie, it was a lot to understand," she says.

The Weight Of Elephants is directed by Kiwi Daniel Joseph Borgman and was shot last year in Otautau, a small settlement near Invercargill.

Angelina and her mother Barbara Peterson relocated to Southland for the shoot. It meant two months off school for Angelina who had to fit lessons with a tutor around six to eight-hour working days.

The hard work didn't stop after filming and Angelina and her mother spent weeks busking around Onehunga to fund their trip to the movie's world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival.

The New Zealand Film Commission was only able to cover some of the costs.

"People were really good, they'd stop and ask questions about the movie. You could feel the community spirit," Ms Peterson says. "I think people like to see a girl from Mt Roskill do well."

It's clear her down-to-earth daughter hasn't been changed by her introduction to a very adult world.

Even her earnings are being put to good use. "I wanted to buy an iPhone but mum wouldn't let me. I've saved up most of it."

Angelina says there are no firm future plans, she'll just see what comes up.

Central Leader