Bilingual banner BN Films bows with $150 mil

Shingle has self-funded slate, pix ready

Prolific is good. Deep-pocketed is even better.

With the launch of their new BN Films banner, Mexican financier Alex Garcia and Argentine producer Lucas Akoskin have a good jump on both fronts: The company bows with a $150 million production fund, a self-funded slate aimed at U.S. and international markets, and seven features ready for release.

The shingle has established offices in Los Angeles and Mexico City and tapped Katrina Wolfe, former senior VP of production and casting for Dimension Films, to serve as its president of production, based in Santa Monica.

The new entity will focus on development and production of pics in English, Spanish and other languages for worldwide release.

“We plan to invest an average of $25 million a year in seven to eight films,” said Garcia, a former international banker with extensive holdings in both the financial and entertainment sectors.

Garcia seems to be putting his wallet behind his ambitions. Since entering the film business six years ago, he has financed or produced more than 30 films, including Brazilian blockbuster “Elite Squad,” Guillermo Arriaga’s “The Burning Plain” and the Spanish-language comedy “Casa de mi padre,” which toplined Will Ferrell.

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“We’re basically a U.S. company making international films,” said Akoskin, who has produced films and TV programs in both North and South America, including feature comedy “The Doorman” and the Latin American version of TV skein “Iconoclasts.”

In 2005, he and Garcia were instrumental in creating the Latin American Film Co. with Bob and Harvey Weinstein – a fund that has brought relevant Latin American films to new audiences worldwide.

Garcia said the new banner will consider co-producing films with the various companies in which he holds shares and looks to tap incentives in their respective territories. These include Lemon Films and Anima Estudios in Mexico, Costa Films in Argentina and 11:11 Films in Colombia.

LatAm Distribution in Mexico City will handle BN Films’ Latin American sales, while strategic sales partners will handle the rest of the world, according to Garcia.

BN Films has 23 feature projects (Spanish and English) in the pipeline, with seven completed films including “El Cartel de los Sapos” (The Snitch Cartel), Colombia’s official entry in the foreign-language Oscar race; Alfonso Pineda’s “Restos” (Remains) and “Espectro”; and Carlos Cuaron’s “Besos de Azucar” (Sugar Kisses).

Also notable on BN’s slate of completed pics: “Words With Gods,” the first installment in the planned four-part “Heartbeat of the World” anthology produced by Akoskin, Garcia and Guillermo Arriaga. The first multilingual ensemble of nine shorts on the unifying theme of religion includes segments by Emir Kusturica, Bahman Ghobadi, Mira Nair, Arriaga, Hideo Nakata, Warwick Thornton and Amos Gitai. The second installment, focusing on the theme of sex, is in pre-production.

“Out of 15 films we have in development, 10 are already fully financed,” said Akoskin.

BN Films has Pineda’s English-language crime thriller “The Jesuit,” penned by Paul Schrader, currently shooting on location in Mexico.

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