New producer-distributor Ufa Cinema, launched at the end of last year by the RTL Group and Freemantle Media through its German subsidiary UFA, has boarded its first project: Urs Odermatt's Mein Kampf.
The film begins shooting in Vienna next Tuesday (April 22).
Ufa Cinema will co-produce the film - based on the 1987 play of the same name by George Tabori -with Berlin-based Schiwago Film, Switzerland's Hugofilm, and Austria's Dor Film in cooperation with broadcasters ZDFtheaterkanal, 3sat, ARTE, ORF, and SRG SSR.
Backing has come for the project from the German Federal Film Board (FFA), Mitteldeutsche Medienfoerderung (MDM), Investitionsbank Hessen, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, BKM, the German Federal Film Fund (DFFF), the Austrian Film Institute (OFI), the Swiss Federal Office of Culture (BAK), Zurich Film Foundation, and the Aargau Kuratorium.
Ufa Cinema's yet-to-be established distribution arm will release the film next year, with Austrian theatrical rights secured by Filmladen Filmverleih.
Set in Vienna in 1910, the story of Mein Kampf sees the young Hitler (played by Tom Schilling) down on his luck after being turned down for a place by the city's Arts Academy and then befriended by an elderly Jew Schlomo Herzl (Goetz George) in a hostel for homeless men.
Herzl supports him like a father would a son and unconciously helps Hitler find his way into politics and triggers a fatal turn of events for world history.
The fact that the good-natured Schlomo is himself a Jew is one of the ironic coincidences which show how the biggest disaster of recent history was able to result out of almost nothing.
Speaking exclusively to Screendaily, producer Martin Lehwald of Schiwago Film pointed out they wanted to avoid having 'something like a filmed theatre performance, but aim rather for the greatest possible historical authenticity, a historical realism where there is the suggestion that it could have been like this.
'At the same time, one will have the feeling of theatre in Tabori's funny dialogues and the wit which we didn't want to translate completely into colloquial speech.'
While the film team will be using some original locations in Vienna such as the Schoenbrunn Palace and the Hofburg, much of the Austrian capital will be recreated at specially built sets in Zittau in the south-eastern part of Saxony near to the borders with Poland and the Czech Republic.
The fact that, architecturally, Zittau has similarities with Vienna has also proven to be fortuitous for the producers since shooting in the Austrian capital will be restricted from May onwards due to the EURO 2008 Football Championships being held in Austria and Switzerland this June and July.
Lehwald stressed, though, that Mein Kampf will be far from being just a chamber piece between the young Hitler and Herzl: 'We have more than 35 different locations for the film and will be going to the Arts Academy for Hitler's entrance examination, to the bridge where he tries to commit suicide, and so on.
'Showing the historical Vienna of that time is not so easy now so we will have some locations digitally reproduced by Magna Mana in Hessen.'