British film producer Donald Ranvaud, who made movies on four continents, including the Oscar-nominated “City of God,” died Monday in Montreal while attending the World Film Festival there as a juror. He was 62.
Ranvaud, considered an innovator on the global independent film circuit, was found dead in his hotel room on the last day of the festival. The cause was reportedly a heart attack.
Born in Florence, Italy, in 1953, Ranvaud taught English and comparative literature at the University of Warwick and the University of East Anglia and also had a distinguished career as a film journalist for Sight and Sound and Cahiers du Cinema, among other publications, before becoming a producer in the late 1980s.
In 1988, he set up the European Script fund with actress Renee Goddard as part of the then-nascent MEDIA Program of the Commission of the European Community. A year later, he became a pioneering full-time producer in far-flung countries, first in China, where he was a producer on Chen Kaige’s “Life on a String” and then “Farewell My Concubine,” in 1993. “Concubine” is the only Chinese-language film to have won the Cannes Palme d’Or.
Ranvaud moved in 1994 to Latin America, where he served as a producer in different guises on, among other titles, “Central Station” by Brazilian director Walter Salles; “Rolling Family” by Argentine Pablo Trapero; and two works by Brazilian helmer Fernando Mereilles, “City of God” and “The Constant Gardner,” adapted from the novel by John Le Carre. “The Constant Gardner” was shot in Kenya and won Rachel Weisz a supporting-actress Oscar in 2006.
Through his Buena Onda shingle, set up in 2003, Ranvaud became known as an ambassador for Latin American cinema, establishing joint ventures with the Cinergia film fund in Costa Rica. He was among founders of La Fabrica film school in Cochabamba, Bolivia. But he also made movies in Italy and the U.S., among other countries.
Ranvaud also handled sales at Videofilmes company in Rio De Janeiro and Sogepaq in Spain, and played a part in helping to set up French mini-major Wild Bunch.
Starting in early 2005, Ranvaud got involved in micro-distribution of movies as head of international relations at Brazil’s Rain Networks, which gathers independent movie theaters into a global digital network.
Ranvaud worked with Al Pacino and U.S.-based Iranian producer Barry Navidi on Pacino’s 2011 Oscar Wilde adaptation “Wild Salome.”
He was a close friend of director Bernardo Bertolucci, who served as jury president of the Action4Climate Documentary competition that Ranvaud set up as part of an environmental awareness initiative of the World Bank, one of his most recent endeavors.
Ranvaud’s final film as a producer is a still-unfinished first feature titled “Sweet Democracy,” with Italian Nobel-prize winning thesp Dario Fo among the cast. It is directed by Italy’s Michele Diomà.
“Donald was a free man,” Diomà told Italian news agency ANSA. “An honest man with plenty of irony, my adoptive filmic father.”
“I will miss him terribly,” Diomà added, “as will all those who loved his way of making independent, bold, and poetic cinema.”