Deutsche Columbia Pictures Film Produktion, Sony Pictures Entertainment's (SPE) local German production arm, has begun pre-production on the comedy Friendship (Freundschaft) with the Oscar-winning Munich-based production company Wiedemann & Berg Filmproduktion and actor Til Schweiger and Tom Zickler's Barefoot Films.

Written by Oliver Ziegenbalg and to be directed by commercials director Markus Goller, Friendship is a buddy and culture-clash comedy set in 1989 in East Germany on the eve of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

When the Wall comes down, 22-year-old Kai (to be played by Matthias Schweighofer who appeared opposite Schweiger in Rabbit Without Ears and The Red Baron) is determined to find his father who escaped from the GDR 12 years before.

Since the only communication with his father has been a birthday card from San Francisco each year, Kai sets off with his best friend for the USA on the quest for his father, with little English and even less money in their pockets.

Commenting on the choice of project for SPE's revived production activities in Germany, Deborah Schindler, President of Sony Pictures International Motion Picture Production Group (SPIMPPG), noted that 'by supporting a tremendously talented emerging director and an exciting young cast and teaming them with accomplished award-winning producers, Friendship represents the kind of movie we want to support as part of our local-language portfolio.

'This is a compelling story about a unique time in German history with a global theme of re-uniting a family, and we couldn't be more excited about how this project has come together.'

Production for SPIMPPG will be overseen by Deutsche Columbia's vice president of production Maike Haas who was appointed at the beginning of this year to coordinate the group's European operations with a focus on German-language and pan-European features.

This project marks another collaboration with SPE for producers Max Wiedemann and Quirin Berg's after Sony Classics handled the US theatrical release of The Lives Of Others.

For Deutsche Columbia Pictures Film Produktion, Friendship is its first project in the new arrangement under Maike Haas.

The production arm had previously been behind such films as Stefan Ruzowitzky's two Anatomy horror thrillers and the Til Schweiger-starrer Was Tun, Wenn's Brennt before being closed down in spring 2003.