At Cannes, Wheeling Weinsteins Go Global

For American filmmakers, the Cannes Film Festival has been one public disappointment after another.

"The Da Vinci Code" opened to widespread jeering. "Southland Tales," Richard Kelly's follow-up to "Donny Darko," failed to impress, as did Richard Linklater's consumer satire "Fast Food Nation." And Sophia Coppola's "Marie-Antoinette" may have sent temperatures along the French Riviera soaring but only in anger.

Even Brad Pitt -- who was due in town to attend the screening of "Babel" -- had to send regrets, due to "the imminent arrival of the newest addition to our family," he explained via telegram.

But behind the scenes, signs have emerged that old Hollywood is exploring new avenues to compete. Bob and Harvey Weinstein have been on a tear in Cannes, negotiating a series of deals to make their new company a serious player in the international market.

When they were building Miramax, the Weinstein brothers earned a reputation as brash mavericks. After their split with Disney, they've positioned their new venture -- the Weinstein Company -- on several fronts.

MySpace.com for the Elite

Together with Eduardo Costantini Jr., they announced the formation of a Latin American film fund to finance the production and acquisition of Latin American Films.

"Bob and I have always prided ourselves on working with international filmmakers and talent on films about other cultures, and this fund will give us the resources we need to showcase Latin America to audiences around the world through the magic of movies," Harvey Weinstein said in a news release.

Earlier this week, the Weinsteins announced the formation of a new label -- Dragon Dynasty -- to market Asian films, including "The Protector," "Seven Swords" and "Dragon Squad." The new label has also secured a marketing deal with Fortune Star Entertainment, which owns the largest library of contemporary Chinese films.

Quentin Tarantino, whose passion for Asian film was apparent in the "Kill Bill" saga, has signed on with Dragon Dynasty to work on brand development.

Looking to the burgeoning Latin American market, Weinstein Co. acquired North American, Australian and New Zealand rights to the Argentine film "Cronica de Una Fuga" ("Buenos Aires 1977"), a political thriller by Adrian Caetano, which is competing for honors at Cannes.

Cannes also provided the Weinsteins an opportunity to toast their investment in an ultra-exclusive version of MySpace.com -- aSmallWorld.com -- an online social networking for the well educated, well born and well traveled.

The site, founded by Erik Wachtmeister in 2004, is clearly for trendsetters, though it's not exactly clear how it will fit into the company's global multimedia plans.

"We've been fascinated by the extraordinary popularity and influence that online social networks are having on consumers all over the world and believe that aSmallWorld, as the leading provider in its market, is uniquely positioned to take advantage of this growing trend," Harvey Weinstein said in a news release.

But as the Weinsteins look internationally, will they still be committed to promoting the independent films that turned them into an industry powerhouse?

"They remain committed to bringing all types of movies to all audiences," said Weinstein spokeswoman Sarah Rothman.

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