UK producer Zorana Piggott’s 011 Productions is to co-produce the feature debut of German filmmaker Eicke Bettinga who is competing in Cannes’ Short Films Competition this year with Gasp which has its world premiere on May 26.

Speaking exclusively to Screen Daily, Bettinga explained that the planned feature, currently going by the title of Untitled Stasi Project, is one of his pet projects.

“The story is set in the late 1980s and centres on an English left-wing student who wants to escape from life under Thatcher and then has the opportunity to study as an exchange student in the GDR,“ he explains. “She becomes increasingly entangled up in the radical changes occuring in the country and so acquires a much clearer insight into how the GDR really functioned.”

“What particularly interested me was the perspective of an outsider as I myself studied in England at the NFTS,” Bettinga added. “In the film we see an important episode in German history as seen through the eyes of an outsider, something which has rarely been shown in cinema.”

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“It’s a story that I have been burning to do for some years because it mirrors my own situation in a way between Germany and England,” he said. “Moreover, having a woman as the lead character, who attracts the attention of the Stasi, gives the story another twist.”

Bettinga is developing the project with fellow NFTS graduate Zorana Piggott with whom he made his previous short Together which was shown in the Semaine de la Critique shorts competition in Cannes in 2009. The film starred UK actor Matt Smith shortly before he auditioned and was accepted for the part of Dr. Who by the BBC.

Piggott, who had previously worked at F&ME as Head of Production before setting up 011 Productions at the beginning of2008, is now in Cannes looking for a potential German partner for Bettinga’s project. Her search will no doubt be made that bit easier by the fact that she has been a member of the Ateliers du Cinéma Européen (ACE) network since last year.

Gasp is the third time that Bettinga has had a short selected for Cannes following the aforementioned Together and his graduation short Shearing which was selected for Cannes’ Cinéfondation in 2002.