Bertelsmann's production arm UFA Film- & TV Produktion and Peter Steinbach, screenwriter of Edgar Reitz's internationally successful TV series Heimat (1984) and Margarethe von Trotta's award-winning Jahrestage (2000), have signed an exclusive agreement whereby Steinbach will work only with UFA on future projects for cinema and television.

UFA producer Norbert Sauer stated that the agreement, which is initially for five years, already includes a TV two-parter for Swedish Television about Zarah Leander the German screen diva of the 1930s, to be shot at the Babelsberg Studios at the end of this year, as well as one three-parter and two four-parters in development. Sauer added that there was a possibility that UFA and Steinbach would eventually transform their working relationship into a joint production company.

Writer Steinbach and UFA are currently working on the four-parter Liebesau - Mitten in Deutschland (working title), which is being co-produced with public broadcaster ZDF and directed by Wolfgang Panzer (Broken Silence). The chronicle of a fictitious East German village near Halle and a love story over 25 years are seen through four key events in the history of the former German Democratic Republic (GDR): the workers' uprising in East Berlin on June 17, 1953; the building of the Wall on August 13, 1961; the 30th anniversary of the GDR in October 1979; and the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989.

Shooting on the production, which received $1.9m (DM 4m) funding from the regional film fund MDM, runs from February 27 to the end of July.