Kiwi film legend Bill Gosden has died just five days shy of turning 67.
An influential figure in the New Zealand film industry, Gosden directed the International Film Festival for almost 40 years before retiring last year due to health reasons.
He died on Friday morning following a diagnosis of bowel cancer in 2017.
Film Festival Trust chair Catherine Fitzgerald says Gosden's contribution to New Zealand's film culture is unforgettable.
"Bill lived and breathed film from his earliest years, working tirelessly to create a demand from New Zealand audiences of the highest quality films from around the world."
Film Festival director Marten Rabarts says the loss of Gosden will be felt in the film industry right across the world.
"The film festival and film community in New Zealand owes Bill a huge debt of gratitude for the decades of work and passion he committed to develop and champion a world-class festival experience for audiences and filmmakers alike."
Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Carmel Sepuloni says she is "saddened" to hear of the passing of Gosden and wants to "acknowledge the outstanding contribution he made to the film industry and culture during his long career."
"Bill had an excellent eye for cinema, a passion for the content he brought to New Zealand audiences and created a vital platform for diverse and engaging stories."
In a post on Bowel Cancer New Zealand's Facebook page last year Gosden detailed the struggle he faced to receive his too-late bowel cancer diagnosis.
"If I were in Australia, France or the UK I probably wouldn't be in the position I am in now," he said, criticising New Zealand's cancer screening programme.
He reported several symptoms and significant irregularities in his bowel habits but wasn't given the option to receive a colonoscopy until it was too late.
"I was very fit, so I think that masked my illness. It's so annoying," he said.
"I would encourage people to definitely get screened if they are worried."
Social media has flooded with tributes to the film champion.
"Bill's role championing New Zealand film cannot be overstated," a Twitter user wrote
"It's hard to imagine filmgoing in New Zealand without his influence, his wit, and his good taste.
"We've lost a cultural hero."
The New Zealand Film Festival Trust and the New Zealand International Film Festival "extend their condolences to Bill's wide circle of friends, family, and colleagues."