Eduardo Costantini Jr first met Harvey Weinstein at a dinner during the 2004 Cannes Film Festival.

Costantini is the son of an Argentinian tycoon who made his fortune in asset management and commercial real estate. At the time of the Weinstein meeting, Costantini Jr was running the Museum of Latin American Art, a $100m non-profit institution founded by his father in Buenos Aires, dedicated to the promotion of Latin American art, cinema and literature.

He also regularly attended film festivals. In 2003, the museum held a retrospective of the work of Brazilian master Glauber Rocha. Costantini became friendly with Rocha's son and daughter, Eryk and Ava Rocha, and when Eryk had a short film in official selection at Cannes in 2004, he invited Costantini to come with him.

Even then, he had been reading scripts and looking at different ways of moving into film production.

'I met Harvey at a dinner and told him about our financial and real-estate business and our interest in Latin American cinema,' recalls Costantini. 'We started talking about different possibilities - a film festival, maybe, or opening some independent film theatres. Finally we settled on an association for producing movies, where they would take care of distribution.'

After Cannes, Weinstein production executive Eric Robinson flew to Buenos Aires to meet with Costantini and develop the idea further. For the next two years, the parties worked to construct a fund which would finance around 15 movies.

The fund closed in 2006 at $30m with investment partners from Mexico, Spain and Argentina as well as The Weinstein Company (TWC) and Costantini, who are the lead investors.

Costantini now runs his own production company, Costa Films, while managing the partnership with TWC, which is called The Latin American Film Company. TWC handles worldwide distribution on all the films the company produces or acquires.

Golden start

Costantini became involved in the first film from the fund - Jose Padilha's Elite Squad (Tropa De Elite) from Brazil - when he starting travelling around the continent in 2004 and 2005 to identify suitable projects.

Elite Squad is the story of a police team charged with bringing down the notorious drug barons of Rio De Janeiro. It was written by Braulio Mantovani, whose credits include City Of God, The Year My Parents Went On Vacation and Walter Salles' Cannes Competition entry Linha De Passe.

'I met with Jose and (the film's producer) Marcos Prado in September 2005 and instantly thought it would make a great movie,' Costantini says. Backed by TWC, Costantini's Costa Films and Universal Pictures International (which retained Latin American rights), the film was a huge local hit in 2006 and this February won the Golden Bear in Berlin.

Going forward, the films The Latin American Film Company is targeting are not necessarily in Spanish or Portuguese but must have some key Latin elements such as director or actor.

Next up is a film based on the Yukio Mishima short story Death In Midsummer which is being rescripted by Argentinian novelist Sergio Bizzio with Luis Ortega attached to direct. Costantini is also close to getting involved in an animation project and a TWC-originated film that will shoot in Argentina and Uruguay with Penelope Cruz attached to star.

But, as Costantini explains, the fund's ambitions to produce movies has led to a second initiative, in distribution.

'We started with a focus on producing movies to be sold internationally by TWC,' he explains, 'but now we have a double purpose which is to bring films from around the world to be distributed in Latin America.'

The distribution plan started when Costantini bought Stephen Frears' The Queen for Latin America in 2005, and subsequently sublicensed it to other distributors including Europa Filmes in Brazil, Videocine in Mexico and Distribution Company in Argentina.

The film drew more than a million admissions across the continent.

Last year The Latin American Film Company invested in Guillermo Arriaga's directorial debut The Burning Plain, starring Charlize Theron, in return for Latin American rights and as co-producer with equity in the film.

Now, Costantini has plans to cement its rights-buying activities with its own distribution operations across the continent.

'We're going to open distribution companies in Brazil, Mexico and Argentina, which together represent 80% of the market,' says Costantini. 'We will open before year-end in all three countries. We will subdistribute in other countries and are also analysing the possibility of partnering with existing distributors.'

'The idea is to distribute some of the TWC movies and at the same time buy movies for Latin America. We will distribute 10 movies a year.'

Costantini says he has closed a deal with a Brazilian partner to raise $10m in Brazil and is about to close an additional $10m from private US and Latin investors, bringing the total amount in the fund to $50m.

'We plan to invest around $10m-$15m a year in acquiring films for distribution in Latin America and then $3m-$5m in Latin American production or worldwide acquisitions. That will be a spend of about $15m a year for the next three years. Bearing in mind we have already spent around $5m, that brings the total amount to $50m.'

Outside of The Latin American Film Company, Costantini has also teamed with computer scientist Efe Cakarel to launch website, an online distribution and cinephile community. Initially, Celluloid Dreams is the site's key provider of film content.