Berlin-based production house Black Forest Films has changed directors in the middle of shooting the film adaptation of Wladimir Kaminer’s bestseller Russendisko.

Producer Christoph Hahnheiser and director Oliver Schmitz, who had previously worked together on his 2001 Un Certain Regard film Hijack Stories, ended the collaboration on Russendisko “by mutual agreement.”

Schmitz, who was in Cannes last year with another South African-set drama Life, Above All, has been replaced by the film’s screenwriter Oliver Ziegenbalg who will be making his directorial debut with Russendisko. Ziegenbalg’s previous screenwriting credits included the Til Schweiger comedy 1 ½ Ritter and Sony Pictures’ 2010 box-office hit Friendship! which also featured Russendisko’s lead actors Matthias Schweighöfer and Friedrich Mücke.

“This change meets with the approval of all of those involved in the film’s financing and exploitation,” the company said.

The €6.4m project is being produced by Hahnheiser and veteran Oscar-winning producer Arthur Cohn who has put up 18% of the budget as private equity. Stefan Gärtner of broadcaster ProSiebenSAT.1’s production arm SevenPictures Film is serving as co-producer, and funding came from Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, German Federal Film Fund (DFFF), German Federal Film Board (FFA), and the MEDIA Programme.

Paramount Pictures will release the film theatrically in German cinemas next year.

Hahnheiser had acquired the rights to Kaminer’s novel in 2002 and worked on the development of an adaptation with 10 screenwriters over the past nine years.

The fish out of water comedy follows the adventures of Wladimir and his two friends, Mischa and Andrej, played by Schweighöfer, Mücke and Christian Friedel (from The White Ribbon). The three young men from Moscow come to Berlin in a lucky wave of emigration right after the fall of the Berlin Wall, taking their chance looking for a better life and encountering all of the strangeness of a new world and Berlin with the spirit of the early ’90s.

In an exclusive statement for ScreenDaily, Hahnheiser explained: “Oliver Ziegenbalg and I had already noticed during the work on the screenplay that we have great consensus about the visual realization of a story like Russendisko. We want the film to be a warm-hearted, modern urban fairytale and, at the same time, a very real multi-cultural story from the Berlin of the ’90s. This story must be captured with the right portion of Kaminer humour and the right film images.”

Russendisko began shooting in Berlin in mid-March and is due to wrap principal photography next month after some scenes on part of Studio Babelsberg’s Berliner Strasse outside set.