Ahmed Benaissa, an Algerian actor with more than 120 film credits to his name, has died. He was 78.
The veteran actor died Friday after a long illness, according to the Algerian Ministry of Culture. His death came just hours before his latest film Sons of Ramses premiered at Cannes Film Festival during a special screening for Critics' Week.
"With great sadness and sorrow, the Minister of Culture and Arts, Dr. Sourieh Mologi, received the news of the death of the deceased actor and theater director Ahmed bin Issa, at the age of 78 years, due to health ailment," the Ministry of Culture shared in a statement on Facebook.
"With this, the Algerian artistic arena loses one of its notable figures, and from the void of art improvises again a knight of its knights, who leaves behind a theatrical and cinematic artistic legacy," Dr. Mologi added. "He is the owner of many theatrical works that left their mark in the world of the father of arts, and a rich cinematic credit."
Clément Cogitore, the French writer and director behind Sons of Ramses, paid tribute to Benaissa in a statement after news of his death broke.
"I am deeply saddened at the sudden passing of Ahmed Benaissa," Cogitore said, according to Variety. "The film would not exist without him and words can't express our sorrow at premiering the film in Cannes today."
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MK2 films also announced that Friday's screening would be dedicated to Benaissa. "All our heartfelt thoughts go out to his family and loved ones," the company shared in a statement.
In Sons of Ramses (Goutte d'Or), Benaissa plays the father of Ramses (Karim Leklou), "a skillful clairvoyant in the multicultural Parisian district of La Goutte d'Or. When a gang of fearless kids start terrorizing the locals, the balance of his thriving business and of the whole neighborhood is disturbed. Until one day, when Ramses has a real vision," according to a plot synopsis from MK2 Films.
Benaissa has developed an extensive résumé since making his onscreen debut in 1971's Étoile aux dents ou Poulou le magnifique.