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.