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Oliver Schmitz Tapped to Direct New South African-German Mini

JOHANNESBURG — Acclaimed South African helmer Oliver Schmitz has been tapped to direct an ambitious new mini-series announced at Discop this week.

“The Day of the Covenant” is based on the true story of the spectacular sabotage of a South African nuclear power plant, an inside job pulled off under the nose of the oppressive apartheid regime.

The 4-hour mini will be produced by Emmy-winning producer Dan Jawitz, of Fireworx Media, in partnership with Ideas for Film, the new L.A.-based film and TV project development label launched by Discop duo Patrick Zuchowicki and Francoise Lazard. Producer rep Todd Brown, of XYZ Films, will be handling sales rights for U.K. and U.S. territories.

Jawitz says the series “offers potential co-prod partners a spectacular retro ‘80s romp…with excellent roles for French and German actors, high production values, first-rate crews, and the opportunity to shoot in the most spectacular city in the southern hemisphere.” Production is slated to begin in Cape Town in third quarter 2018.

“Covenant” is a fast-paced series set against the backdrop of the Cold War, where political intrigues drive the race to build a power plant, despite international sanctions against South Africa’s apartheid government.

But their efforts are undermined by “an apolitical drop-out,” an unlikely anti-hero at the heart of what Jawitz calls a “quirky and highly entertaining” mini.

Born and raised in South Africa, Schmitz is an internationally celebrated writer and director. Four of his films have been selected for Official Selection at Cannes, and his powerful AIDS drama, “Live, Above All,” was short-listed for the foreign-language Oscar in 2010. His most recent feature, “Shepherds and Butchers,” with Steve Coogan and Andrea Riseborough, premiered at the Berlinale in 2016, winning an audience award.

The Berlin-based director has also had a prolific TV career, helming the award-winning comedy series “Türkisch Für Anfänger” and “Doctor’s Diary,” and recently completing the first three episodes of the ZDF comedy series “Das Pubertier,” based on the works of best-selling author Jan Weiler.

Of “Covenant,” Schmitz says, “This is one of the most original, weird and wonderful stories I have read in a long time. Illegal arms trading, clandestine cold-war politics and an outrageous anti-hero that makes Hunter S. Thompson look like a toddler fresh out of playschool. It’s a series I want to watch…and I get to make it!”

Schmitz will be bringing his new international arts fund, WTHW (What the Hero Wants), with Aaryan Trivedi, into the production mix for “Covenant.” The fund is a producing and writing partner in the project.

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