21st Nov2015

‘Hollywood Banker’ DVD Review

by Phil Wheat


Hollywood Banker, directed by Frans Afman’s daughter Rozemyn, charts the bankers early days working with producer Dino De Laurentiis through to his fall out with Credit Lyonnais Nederland over the company’s financing of MGM to Giancarlo Parretti, which would result in both the bank and the studio’s bankruptcy.

It’s hard to believe that, before Afman, there really was no model for independent studios to “easily” finance their projects. Yet today Afman’s model of pre-sales and completion guarantees seems simple. It’s no wonder how easily Afman managed to make himself the go-to guy for filmmakers in the 80s.  A prime example being Dino De Laurentiis’ King Kong remake, which was the first film to bring Afman’s financial nous to the attention of more than just the independent studios of the time. After all, the pre-sales model not only made it easier to finance movies but it also allowed major studios to take more risks on films that would not typically be in their wheelhouse…

However Frans Afman was not only a financier. He also was an excellent problem-solver, working his magic on the messing financial troubles of Superman and its sequel. Magic which found support from Slavenburgs Bank, whom Afman originally worked for. At least until the bank was busted for money laundering… But that didn’t stop Afman. Cleared of any wrong doing, Afman would go on to help finance films like The Terminator; Rambo: First Blood Part II; When Harry Met Sally and Driving Miss Daisy through Credit Lyonnais Nederland and their specially-created Entertainment division (since when do banks have entertainment divisions? Even now it sounds absurd).

Hollywood Banker features interviews with cinematic legends including Kevin Costner, Mickey Rourke, Oliver Stone, Paul Verhoeven and Michael Douglas. But the best interviews..? Those are with Afman and his close filmmaking partners Dino De Laurentiis, and the madmen behind Cannon – Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus. It’s like watching old friends sitting round shooting the breeze and generally having a good time. And it’s always good to see Golan and Globus talking movies anyway.

Besides detailing how Afman changed the financing game for filmmakers, Hollywood Banker also reveals how he helped save cinemas across the globe, working with Golan/Globus and Cannon Films to buy cinema chains in America, the UK and Holland. And whilst he found success with that and with many, many, many movies, Frans Afman’s legacy was not always such a success – he helped fund the godawful Roman Polanski film Pirates for example.

Admittedly, Frans Afman is not a name one immediately thinks of when we think of Hollywood movie making, in fact in the grand scheme of things his is not a name one would even mention when it comes to movie-making. But he was THE money-man behind independent movies, movies of my childhood, even films we now consider huge blockbusters including Academy Award winners such as Platoon, Dances With Wolves and A Room with a View; FYI – Afman and Credit Lynonnais were up for 27 Oscars the year Platoon won – Afman was even thanked in the acceptance speech for the film!

[Side note: One thing you notice watching Hollywood Banker is how films that had Frans Afman’s involvement in the 80s and early 90s became cultural zeitgeists – films such as Platoon, Terminator 2 and Dance With Wolves. It’s hard to think of cinema without such movies today]

Rozemyn Afman’s documentary not only tells the story of how her father came to be THE go-to guy for not only Hollywood producers but major independent studios – including 80s stalwarts such as Cannon, Carolco and Hemdale – supplying them with the necessary funds to make movies that many consider classics of the period; but also how his model of financing left a great legacy in independent filmmaking in the United States. Even if in the end he’s an unsing hero.

**** 4/5

A suprising story of the legacy one man had on filmmaking, Hollywood Banker is out now on DVD from Bulldog Film Distribution.


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