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Sheila Whitaker Dies

Sheila Whitaker Dies

Sheila Whitaker was one of the first people I met on the international film circuit in the days in the 80s and 90s when the London Film Festival meant much more in the world of festivals than it does today.  

The obituary below direct from Variety  and is written by Pat Saperstein, another woman I have always seen covering film affairs, and I have so often read her articles in Variety without ever noticing the byline. Not only is she an editor at Variety but also for  I think she deserves more tribute than this, but for now, I want to quote her on Sheila and thank her for letting me know that Sheila, one of my early role models, has passed on.   I will be aware for a long time that she is no longer at the places that matter so much in our world, starting with this upcoming Toronto Film Festival where I always would know I could find her at the Dubai and Doha receptions. I know Dubai will miss her greatly as will so many of us. 

Sheila Whitaker, who served as director of international programs for the Dubai International Film Festival, died Monday in London.

She was previously director of the London Film Festival from 1987 to 1996, and head of programming at the National Film Theater in London from 1984 to 1990.

Whitaker had been working with the Dubai festival since the fest’s beginning in 2004.

“She dedicated her life to understanding the emerging cinema…From the Arab world, Iran, and Latin America. She engaged with the people of those regions, with their culture and true nature,” wrote the artistic director Masoud Amralla Al Ali on the Dubai fest’s website.

A lifetime lover of film, she headed the British National Film Archive collection of stills and posters and co-edited “Life and Art: The New Iranian Cinema” and “An Argentine Passion: The Films of Maria Luisa Bemberg.” She served on festival juries from Venice to Syria and was also founding editor of “Writing Women,” a journal of women’s writing. In addition, she wrote obituaries of entertainment figures for the Guardian newspaper.

She was awarded a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, an Honorary Doctorate of Letters by the University of Newcastle and an Honorary Doctorate of Law by the University of Warwick.

Instead of flowers, Sheila requested that donations should be made to Palfest at


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