A wonderful and extraordinary man who had recently become a friend has died suddenly at the age of 62, and I want to honour him here. His name is Donald Ranvaud, and we shared a mutual friend we had both known for over 40 years. Somehow we’d never succeeded in meeting, but in July we met, and it felt like we had always known each other and were just hooking up again after a brief absence. We sat for four hours in the garden, distracted only with a glass of water, talking and talking…
Donald produced such Oscar-nominated films as Farewell My Concubine, City of God, The Constant Gardener and Central Station. But despite his achievements he was utterly unassuming, and simply passionate about film, about creativity – and about spirituality and the environment. He worked for the World Bank’s Film4Climate initiative and had lived all over the world, helping to develop film projects in the EC, China and Latin America. It wasn’t money or kudos that drove him, but his love – of film and of people. He was generous and kind, and as Mike Downey in his tribute to Don wrote: ‘The words of Jonathan Swift and Ignatius J. Reilly often sprung to mind when he embarked on another of his passion projects — “When a true genius appears, you can know him by this sign: that all the dunces are in a confederacy against him.” Some of Don’s schemes were eccentric, but all were underpinned by a serious love for cinema, a passionate support for artists and a profound understanding of the creative process. And yes, there were dunces, naysayers with limited or tunnel vision. Donald K. Ranvaud was many things, but above all he was a true visionary…he was a man who with his every contribution to art and knowledge made a difference — he changed the way people see the world.”
When we met, we talked about his belief in reincarnation, and in how we incarnate in a ‘team’, and then through our lives gradually reacquaint ourselves with this team to work on projects. It’s a lovely idea, and we began working together straight away. We were planning a trip to Ireland, and then he came to Lewes again just last week and we talked and talked once more. He had a lovely way of throwing his hands out to either side in a Latin American gesture of ‘Whatever’. But he was concerned about his health, and a few days later he died just before he was due to be on the jury at the Montreal Film Festival.
The loss of a new friend feels different to losing an old friend. When an old friend or loved one dies, we lose memories, the past we shared together. But when a new friend dies, it feels like we lose what’s in front of us, not what’s behind us.
But as Mike Downy wrote, Don was a visionary, and he believed in the reality of the Otherworld, in our ability to fly in it, to have new adventures, to be born again… Long live dear Donald.
To find out more about Donald, google him – there are plenty of articles online about this lovely man and his contribution to cinema.