New type of patron boosts Latin biz

Constantini hopes to give 'Latin American art a wider stage'

CANNES — Sitting on the Grand Hotel terrace at Cannes, Eduardo Costantini Jr. looks like a rock-star: dark-eyed, wavy black locks, a warm-smile and a chill-out combo of dinky swimming trunks, T-shirt and towel.

He typifies a new generation of Latin Americans who come from seriously wealthy backgrounds, have a financial grounding but a yen for filmmaking.

That opens up new financing formulas for Latin America. “I had two ways of entering the film business: Picking up or producing a movie, going to a market and trying to sell it. Or creating a fund with financial partners and financing a slate of films to lower exposure,” he says.

Costantini took the second route. He will manage a Latin American production/distribution film fund with The Weinstein Co., which sources say is worth up to $50 million. The Weinsteins’ prestige and U.S. distribution muscle and Costantini’s family background no doubt helped in raising capital. His father, a respected businessman with interests in real estate and mutual-fund management, is best-known for his 20th century Latin American art collection, which he turned, as a donation, into Buenos Aires’ Museum of Latin American Art (Malba).

Costantini Jr. studied film at Buenos Aires’ Cinema City and business at its Universidad Catolica Argentina. It’s clear where his heart lies. He reminisces fondly about producing docus on Malba-invited artists Paul Auster and Emir Kusturica and organizing a Chantal Akerman video installation. He talks up Malba’s just-launched Latin American Filmmakers DVD collection, which bowed with Argentine modern pioneer Martin Retjman.

The film fund’s first production is Brazilian Jose Padilha’s “Elite Squad” and its first pick-up is “Cronica de una fuga,” from Argentina’s Adrian Caetano.

Both are up-and-coming Latin American helmers who merit a larger audience. So the Latin American fund isn’t just a business proposition. “Of course not,” Costantini emphasizes. Like Malba, it’s an attempt to give Latin American art a wider stage. Audiences worldwide have to buy into the fund’s films. If they show half Costantini’s commitment, it will boast successes. “I’ve been preparing myself for this for years,” he says.

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