Leading figures in the European film industry have paid tribute to Eliane Dubois, the pioneering founder of Benelux distributor Cineart, who died today [Aug 20] following a long illness. She was 65.

Double Palme d’Or winner Emir Kusturica led the tributes. “The movies from Time Of The Gypsies through Black Cat White Cat, Undergound, Life Is A Miracle, Maradona, everything, all important international films that I was doing, she has supported,” said Kusturica.

“She was always so enthusiastic…if you look at her record and with whom she was working, it was really impressive. I simply can’t believe what I have heard.”

Kusturica praised her “strength, independence…and great taste, which is very rare today”.

“It’s a big loss. That’s not a phrase - it’s a really, really big loss.”

Wild Bunch’s Vincent Maraval also spoke of his shock at the new of Dubois’ death. “She was someone who, of course, was very close to Wild Bunch because we grew up together. It’s thanks to people like her that Wild Bunch could develop. She was a fighter and for me it’s like losing a brother in arms.”

Speaking from the set Ken Loach’s Jimmy’s Hall in Ireland, Sixteen Films’ Rebecca O’Brien was likewise effusive in her praise of Dubois.

“She was a founder member of the magnificent tribe of European supporters who were instrumental in helping us make a steady flow of films throughout the last 20 years,” said O’Brien.

“She is one of the key elements in that patchwork of funders that we put together and helped to do all the Ken Loach films.”

O’Brien described Dubois as “a passionate advocate of specialist and arthouse cinema and films like ours. She built a terrific company in Cineart.”

Producer San Fu Maltha spoke of Dubois as a mentor. “Right now, it (film) has become more of a business. When she entered this business, people loved movies and she was one of them. With her passing, we are going to miss someone who was very crucial in independent film distribution.

“She started out with smaller art house movies but had the sense to also go into bigger quality movies…even when Cineart became a bigger company, she didn’t lose the love of film.”

The news of Dubois’ death was announced in a statement by Cineart on Tuesday afternoon.

“Eliane will be remembered for her great loyalty, her boundless enthusiasm, her passion for cinema and her fighting spirit,” the statement read.

Stephan Depotter and Marc Smit will now assume the running of Cineart.

Speaking to ScreenDaily, Depotter said that the business side of the company will carry on as normal.

“We all feel like orphans…it is very, very sad and very hard to face,” Depotter said.

“She was clever and intelligent enough to prepare her process of retirement. For three years, Marc and myself started to run the company. Now that she has just passed away, luckily everything is in order in terms of administration and we can focus on our sorrow.”