Director Idrissa Ouedraogo of Burkina Faso, a giant of African cinema, died Sunday. He was 64, according to his country’s national filmmakers guild. The cause of death was not revealed.
The prolific 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.”
Born Jan. 21, 1954, in what was then called Upper Volta, a French colony, Ouedraogo studied in Kiev before moving to Paris. There he attended the prestigious Institut d’Hautes Etudes Cinematographiques and graduated with a degree in film studies from the Sorbonne in 1985.
His first film, Yam Daabo , arrived in 1986, followed by Yaaba, an unusual love story between a young boy and an elderly woman spurned by her village. The film won the FIPRESCI Prize in Cannes in 1989.
That was the start of Ouedraogo’s international fame, which led to what is now considered his keynote work, Tilai. The complicated story finds a man returning to his village after a long absence, only to find that his father has married his fiance. Even though she is now officially his mother, they begin an affair, and trouble ensues.
Ouedraogo also had a theatrical work, The Tragedy of King Christopher, and largely worked in television in recent years, largely because finding funding to shoot on film – his requirement – became difficult. However, friends claimed he was planning a comeback to film.
Tributes to Ouedraogo poured in from various corners of the world.
Janaina Oliveira of Brazil’s Center for Afro-Brazilian and Indigenous Studies, was preparing a retrospective of Ouedraogo’s work. “We talked two weeks ago,” she said in a Facebook post. “I was bringing him to Brazil. Tickets, screening, tribute…it was all set. He was so happy.”
Gilles Jacob, president of the Cannes film festival when Tilai debuted, said Ouedraogo “closed his eyes for good right when the sun which illuminated his body of work was setting.”