Beta Cinema will handle international distribution for Kaspar Heidelbach's drama Berlin 1936 (working title) which begins shooting in North Rhine-Westphalia on Wednesday (Aug 6), just two days before the opening of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

The production by Cologne-based Gemini Film, one of co-producers of the Dardenne brothers' Cannes competition film The Silence Of Lorna, centres on the leading German track and field athlete Gretel Bergmann who was forced off the German high jump team a month before the 1936 Games because she was Jewish.

In Heidelbach's film, the Nazis send a male athlete disguised a woman into the training camp to compete with the gold medal favourite.

In 1996, the real-life Gretel - now Margaret Bergmann Lambert - was invited by the German Olympic Committee to be its guest at the Atlanta Olympics and had sports facilities in Germany named after her.

Bergmann will be played by Karoline Herfurth, whose recent credits include Tom Tykwer's Perfume - The Story of A Murderer and Stephen Daldry's The Reader, in a cast including Sebastian Urdenowsky, Axel Prahl and Franz Dinda.

Principal photography will run until mid-October with shooting also at locations in Lower Saxony, Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein and Berlin, with backing from nordmedia, Filmstiftung NRW, Filmfoerderung Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein and the German Federal Film Fund (DFFF).

X Verleih will release the film theatrically in Germany. Beta Cinema is represented at this week's Locarno Film Festival by Hannes Stoehr's Berlin Calling and Philipp Stoelzl's North Face (Nordwand) which both have their world premieres on the Piazza Grande on Aug 8 and 9, respectively.