Burkina Faso’s Idrissa Ouedraogo, a towering figure of African cinema, died at the age of 64 on Sunday, according to a statement from the national filmmakers guild.
A prolific director over the course of his celebrated career, Ouedraogo was best known for “Tilai,” a powerful drama about family honor that won the Cannes Jury Prize in 1990.
President Roch Marc Christian Kabore said in a statement that his country “has lost a filmmaker of immense talent,” noting that the director “truly contributed to turning the spotlight on Burkinabe and African cinema beyond our borders.”
Tributes and condolences from around the African film world poured out on social media. Congolese helmer Balufu Bakupa-Kanyinda described his “deep sadness” at the passing of a man affectionately known as “the teacher,” adding that “the maestro has come home, behind the screen.”
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Gilles Jacob, president of the Cannes film festival when Ouedraogo’s “Yaaba” and “Tilai” were selected, mourned the passing of a screen legend who “closed his eyes for good right when the sun which illuminated his body of work was setting.”
In Berlin, where filmmakers were gathered on Sunday at the Berlinale Africa Hub, many shared thoughts on Ouedraogo’s life and celebrated career.
Long-time friend and veteran fest programmer Keith Shiri called Ouedraogo “a great and generous man” who welcomed him on his first visit to Burkina Faso in 1989, for the pan-African film festival, Fespaco, where Ouedraogo would become a staple in the following years.
When Shiri returned the favor, Ouedraogo not only visited him in his native Zimbabwe: he stayed to lens a feature film. “He became a dear friend,” said Shiri, who added that “given [Ouedraogo’s] body of work,” he remained committed to “cinema for Burkinabe first.”
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Born Jan. 21, 1954, in what was then the French colony of Upper Volta, Ouedraogo studied in Kiev before moving to Paris, where he attended the prestigious Institut d’Hautes Etudes Cinematographiques and graduated with a degree in film studies from the Sorbonne in 1985.
Returning to Burkina Faso, he lensed his first feature, “Yam Daabo” (1986), which was soon followed by “Yaaba,” a story of the love between a young boy and an elderly woman spurned by villagers who believe her to be a witch. The film, which won the FIPRESCI Prize in Cannes in 1989, catapulted Ouedraogo to international acclaim, a reputation that was bolstered by his masterpiece, “Tilai.”
Along with his work onscreen, Ouedraogo was also a veteran of the theater, directing “The Tragedy of King Christopher” at Paris’ Comedie-Francaise. Though he directed a short film in the 9/11 omnibus “11’9″01,” Ouedraogo had largely turned to TV work in recent years, and was thought by many to have become disillusioned with the challenges of funding the films he insisted on filming on celluloid. “He was one of those purists of cinema,” said Shiri.
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Recently, Ouedraogo had been planning a comeback to feature films, according to Shiri, who felt the director was energized by his recent teaching experiences at the Ouaga Film Lab, a training academy in Ouagadougou. Ouedraogo was also part of the planning committee to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Fespaco next year. “He was about to come back again,” said Shiri. “All of a sudden, he’s gone.”
Janaina Oliveira, of Brazil’s Center for Afro-Brazilian and Indigenous Studies, was preparing a retrospective of Ouedraogo’s work this May. “We talked two weeks ago,” she wrote in a Facebook post. “I was bringing him to Brazil. Tickets, screening, tribute…it was all set. He was so happy.”
In memoriam 2018: Remembering stars we lost this year (via Photo Services):
Stars we've lost in 2018
Nini Theilade, a ballet dancer who appeared with Mickey Rooney, Olivia de Havilland and James Cagney in the 1935 film adaptation of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," died Feb. 13. She was 102.
Comedian Marty Allen, who was a staple of TV variety shows, game shows and talk shows for decades, died Feb. 12. He was 95.
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Legendary singer Vic Damone who also starred in several television series, including "The Vic Damone Show" passed away on Feb.11. He was 89.
Jan Maxwell known for her patrician elegance, crisp command and dry humor, died Feb. 11 of complications from cancer. She was 61.
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Reg E. Cathey
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Jóhann Jóhannsson, the Oscar-nominated composer of such films as “Arrival,” “Sicario” and “The Theory of Everything,” died Feb. 9. He was 48.
John Gavin, who memorably appeared in the films “Imitation of Life,” “Psycho” and “Spartacus,” died on Feb. 9. He was 86.
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Mickey Jones, the character actor best known for his recurring roles in “Justified” and “Home Improvement,” died Feb. 7. He was 76.
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Ann Gillis, the former child star who portrayed Tom Sawyer's love interest in David O. Selznick's 1938 adaptation of the classic Mark Twain novel, died Feb. 7. She was 90.
John Mahoney, whose TV and movie roles ranged from the cantankerous dad on 'Frasier' to the flirty college professor in 'Moonstruck,' died Feb. 4 after a short illness. He was 77.
Dennis Edwards, who joined the Temptations in 1968 and sang on a string of the group's hits including "I Can't Get Next to You," "Ball of Confusion," died on Feb.1st. He was 74.
Louis Zorich, a veteran actor and the husband of Olympia Dukakis, died Jan. 30 at 93. He was best known as the father of Paul Reiser's character on the NBC sitcom "Mad About You."
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Addison Morton "Mort" Walker was an comic strip writer, known for creating the comic strips “Beetle Bailey” in 1950, died Jan. 27. He was 94.
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Warren Miller, an adventure filmmaker who made more than 500 films focused largely on skiing, died Jan. 24. He was 93.
Horror author Dallas Mayr, best known by his pen name 'Jack Ketchum,' died Jan. 24 at the age of 71. Ketchum’s books included 1980’s Off Season, 1989’s The Girl Next Door, and 1995’s Red, the latter two of which were adapted for the big screen.
Robert Dowdell, the versatile actor who had supporting roles on “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” and “Stoney Burke”, two ABC series of the 1960s, died Jan. 23. He was 85.
Lari White, a Grammy-winning singer-songwriter, producer and actress, died on Jan.23. She was 52. As a country artist, White scored six Top 20 country hits, including the Top 10 single "That's My Baby."
Legendary South African jazz musician Hugh Masekela died on Jan. 23 at the age of 78 after a decade-long fight with cancer.
Actress Connie Sawyer died Jan. 22 at the age of 105. With more than 140 TV and film credits to her name, Sawyer was known as Hollywood’s oldest working actress. She continued to perform through late 2017.
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Dorothy Malone, star of the big and small screen with “Written on the Wind,” “Basic Instinct” and “Peyton Place,” died Jan. 19 of natural causes. She was 92.
Olivia Cole, the Emmy-winning actress best known for her performances in the miniseries "Roots" and "The Women of Brewster Place," died Jan. 19. She was 75.
Chicago rapper Fredo Santana — born Derrick Coleman — died on Jan. 19 as the result of a seizure. He was 27.
Actor Bradford Dillman, who starred as Edmund in the original Broadway production of Eugene O’Neill’s 'Long Day’s Journey Into Night' and had an impressive film and TV career, died on January 16 in Santa Barbara, CA. He was 87.
Micki Varro, an actress and jazz singer whose credits include “The Champ”, “Hart to Hart” and “The New Howdy Doody Show”, died Jan. 16 of cardiac arrest. She was 75.
Australian actress Jessica Falkholt, who played Hope Morrison on long-running drama "Home and Away," died Jan. 17. She was 29.
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Dolores O'Riordan, the driving force behind the Irish band The Cranberries, died on Jan. 15 at 46.
Veteran actor Peter Wyngarde, who starred as investigator Jason King in the iconic 1970s British police series “Department S,” died Jan. 15. He was 90.
Doreen Tracey, who was one of the original Mouseketeers on "The Mickey Mouse Club," died Jan. 10 after a two-year battle with cancer. She was 74.
Gospel singer Edwin Hawkins, best known for the crossover hit "Oh Happy Day," died Jan. 15 after suffering from pancreatic cancer. He was 74.
Bobby Zarin, the husband of "Real Housewives of New York" star Jill Zarin, died on Jan. 13 after a long battle with cancer. He was 71.
Singer and songwriter Denise LaSalle, whose hit "Trapped by a Thing Called Love" topped the R&B charts in 1971, died Jan. 8. She was 78.
Donnelly Rhodes, the Canadian TV actor best known for his roles in ABC comedy "Soap" and cult hit "Battlestar Galactica," died Jan. 8. He was 80
French pop singer France Gall, who won the Eurovision Song Contest and sold millions of albums over a four-decade career, died Jan. 7 near Paris. She was 70.
Greta Thyssen, the Danish beauty who doubled for Marilyn Monroe, dated Cary Grant and starred opposite the Three Stooges, died Jan. 6. She was 90.
Jerry Van Dyke
Jerry Van Dyke, who emerged from the shadow of his older brother Dick to forge a successful comedy and acting career, most memorably on the sitcom "Coach," died January 5. He was 86.
Ray Thomas, a founding member of British rock group the Moody Blues, died Jan. 4. He was 76.
Legendary record producer and Fame studio owner Rick Hall, the man regarded as the "Father of Muscle Shoals Music," died Jan. 2. He was 85.
Frank Buxton, writer and director for “The Odd Couple” and “Happy Days,” died as a result of heart issues on Jan. 2. He was 87.
Jon Paul Steuer, musician and former child star best known for his work on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “Grace Under Fire,” died on Jan. 1. He was 33.