Film festival veteran Sheila Whitaker has passed away at the age of 77.

The British festival director died peacefully at her home in London on Monday (29Jul13).

Whitaker had been serving as director of programmes for the Dubai International Film Festival since 2004.

In a post on the festival's website, artistic director Masoud Amralla Al Ali writes, “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."

Previously, the British director was director of the London Film Festival from 1987 to 1996, and head of programming at the National Film Theatre in London from 1984 to 1990.

She also 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 and was the founding editor of Writing Women.

She was awarded with 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.