Investment helps build pan-regional film unit

Mexico’s Alex Garcia has taken a minority stake in Argentina’s Costa Films, helping to build one of Latin America’s first pan-regional film production companies.

Buenos-Aires based Costa, headed by Eduardo Costantini, already teamed with Weinstein Co. in 2006 to create the Latin American Film Co.

Garcia, a partner in the L.A. and Mexico-based Nala Films, which has funding at the multimillion-dollar level, is best-known as a partner in Mexican toon house Anima Estudio and Billy and Fernando Rovzar’s Lemon Films.

Garcia’s investment gives Costa a beachhead in Mexico — Costantini is working out of Lemon’s offices in Mexico — plus bridge financing for films. Crucially, it also will help provide cashflow for Costa’s acquisition of a minority stake in an as-yet-undisclosed Brazilian film production house. That deal will be closed shortly, Costantini said.

“The aim is to create a large Latin America producer, based out of the three countries, targeting international markets with the best talent and stories,” Costantini said.

He hopes to produce out of Brazil in 2009, making Portuguese-language arthouse movies as well as international co-productions from Brazil later this year.

“We like Brazilian films,” Costantini said. “Brazil’s Argentina’s neighbor, has really arresting talent, and companies can tap considerable tax breaks,”

The Latin American Film Co. scored last year in co-producing “Elite Squad,” the highest-grossing Brazilian film of 2008 and winner of Berlin’s Golden Bear.

Brazil’s government and film producers have also been negotiating public funding for international co-productions.

A co-producer of Guillermo Arriaga’s “The Burning Plain,” Costa’s also a co-founder and a lead shareholder in VOD Internet site The Auteurs, partnering with Hengameh Panahi’s Celluloid Dreams.

The Costa-Garcia deal comes as Costa is aiming to take The Auteurs to its next level, through ad backing.

Repped at the Berlinale by founder Efe Cakarel, The Auteurs will officially launch at Cannes.

It currently hosts 130 features and boasts 100,000 monthly users. It has closed film deals with Criterion Connection as well as Celluloid Dreams, and is looking for other strategic product pacts, Costantini said.

The Auteurs will team with Brazilian distributors to launch this July in Brazil. It has just inked with Fallon, a U.K. branding and communications company whose clients include NBC, BBC and Sony, to secure advertising and build awareness for the site.

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