One of the towering figure in African cinema, a Burkinabe filmmaker Idrissa Ouedraogo, is dead.

He died on Sunday at 5:30 am (0530 GMT) at age 64 of an unspecified “illness” in a hospital in the capital Ouagadougou, the union of filmmakers said.

Ouedraogo produced or directed some 40 films from the 1980s to the 2000s, set in Africa and often exploring the strains between modern urban and traditional rural lifestyles.

In 1990, he won the Grand Prix at Cannes Film Festival for Tilai, an African version of a Greek tragedy about family dishonour, which is set in a village and is probably his best-known work internationally.

“Burkina Faso has lost a filmmaker of immense talent,” President Roch Marc Christian Kabore said in a statement.

Ouedraogo “worked hard to raise the profile of Burkinabe and African cinema outside our borders,” he added.

Ouedraogo began his career as a cinematographer on the 1981 movie Poko which won the best short film award at FESPACO, Africa’s biggest film festival.

After completing his film studies at the prestigious Sorbonne in Paris, he created his first feature-length film Yam daabo (The Choice) about poverty-stricken villagers in the Sahel who must choose to stay and await international aid or leave for a more fertile region.

As well as winning at Cannes, Tilai went on to win the Golden Stallion of Yennenga, the top prize at FESPACO, in 1991.

He headed the FESPACO jury in 2003.

Ouedraogo also worked in theatre, including at the prestigious Comedie-Francaise in Paris.