Beijing-based Huayi Brothers Pictures is to co-produce and handle distribution in China for Florian Gallenberger's second feature film John Rabe, which will begin principal photography in Shanghai and at original locations in Nanking from Oct 18 to February 2008.

Previously known as John Rabe - The Good Man of Nanking, Gallenberger's own script tells the story of the German businessman and Nazi party member John Rabe who succeeded in 1937 in setting up a neutral zone in the city of Nanking and saving the lives of countless Chinese during the Nanking massacre.

Upon his return to Germany in 1938, he was arrested by the Gestapo for collaborating with the Chinese and died in poverty soon after the Second World War.

Ulrich Tukur (The Lives Of Others) will play the title role of the man who was recently referred to by the New York Times as 'The Schindler of China', with other cast members including Daniel Bruehl, Dagmar Manzel and Gottfried John. The names of the non-German, international cast will be revealed shortly.

The $20m drama is being produced by Hofmann & Voges Entertainment, who have been developing the project for almost 10 years, with Jan Mojto's EOS Entertainment and Benjamin Herrmann's Majestic Filmproduktion in co-production with Nicolas Traube's Paris-based Pampa Production and Beijing-based Huayi Brothers Pictures, and in collaboration with German public broadcaster ZDF.

Backing for the 'hybrid' production of a feature film and TV two-parter has come from FilmFernsehFonds Bayern, Bayerischer Bankenfonds, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, the German Federal Film Board (FFA), the German Federal Film Fund (DFFF) and the German-French Mini-Traite.

Majestic Filmverleih will release the film in German-speaking countries in 2008, with Beta Cinema serving as world sales agent.