Cannes do: Local producer goes to France

Rick Preve was pretty thrilled just to be taking two films he'd produced to the Cannes Film Festival.

Then two days before the May 14 screening of his documentary, Mondovino, festival officials moved it into competition for the Palme d'Or, where it will face off against heavyweights like Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, the Coen brothers' The Ladykillers, and, well, Shrek 2.

 "Having Mondovino in competition is a pretty big deal," says Virginia Film Festival head Richard Herskowitz. "Only 18 films are in competition. A total of 65 other films are in the festival that would love to be in competition. It's quite a pinnacle."

Mondovino joins Moore's controversial Fahrenheit 9/11, recently dropped from distribution by Disney, making it the first time two documentaries have been in competition at Cannes, according to Reuters.

The Mondovino team got the Cannes red carpet treatment. "We rode in an official festival car with police on motorcycles," reports Preve, back in Charlottesville May 17. People– and, of course, paparazzi– were camped out at the entrance to the Grande Lumiere theater.

"It was very well done," says Preve. Cannes has choreographed the screenings into an art form. "They play the movie's theme song, and announce who's arriving.... It's an amazing experience to see your name on the credits at the end."

And after the screening, the Mondovino crew partied at the Man Ray Villa.

After Preve met Mondovino director Jonathan Nossiter, a sommelier, at a Virginia Film Society wine-tasting dinner in Charlottesville a couple of years ago, he became executive producer for Nossiter's look at the world of winemaking.

In Cannes, Preve screened another film that resulted from his meeting with Nossiter, who let him know that director Mercedes Garcia Guevara needed a producer. The result was Tango: A Strange Turn. "From that one dinner at Eastern Standard in February 2002, I got two movies," notes Preve.

With so many movies being screened at Cannes, Preve says it's not unusual for buyers to leave a movie after 15 minutes. He was amazed that people stayed until the end of Tango– and even applauded, which bodes well for the film finding a buyer.

Of course, there were celebrity sightings– Preve says he spotted Cameron Diaz. But he claims he's even more enthused about the contacts he made, particularly in looking for potential editors and producers to help with Chagas: A Hidden Affliction, the documentary he just got back from filming in Argentina about the parasite that eats one's internal organs. (Preve and his Chagas documentary were subjects of a January 29, 2004, Hook Facetime feature.)

"Cannes is a great place to meet contacts," he says.

So– any sign of Quentin and Uma? "Is that really your question?" asks Preve.

Well, Tarantino is the jury president who will be handing out the Palme d'Or May 22.

Local producer Rick Preve takes two films to Cannes, and one will compete for the prestigious Palme d'Or.