Francesco Rosi, who has died aged 92, was a film-maker who was fascinated with power, poverty and politics and whose commitment to social issues made him an heir to the traditions of the Italian neorealist cinema of the postwar years.
French critic Michel Ciment counted him, along with Federico Fellini and Michelangelo Antonioni, among "the three last giants of Italian cinema". His films won top prizes at the Cannes, Venice and Berlin festivals. Yet he never acquired the kind of international fame many of his peers knew.
Rosi absorbed the social documentary style of Italian neorealism, which flowered in the immediate postwar years.
Born in Naples, he often drew on his own experience in his films. Among the most famous are Salvatore Giuliano (1962), the story of a bandit turned patriot, regarded as his masterpiece, and The Mattei Affair, a study in corruption.
Rosi denounced the collusion between the Italian government and crooked developers in Naples. Giuseppe Tornatore, director of Cinema Paradiso, described him as "the creator of investigative cinema, a courageous and absolutely original narrative form".
His last film, La Tregua (The Truce), was based on Primo Levi's post-Holocaust memoir. John Turturro. who played Levi in the film, called Rosi "something of a mentor" .
In addition to being a director and screenwriter for his own films and those of others (he wrote Bellissima for Luchino Visconti and The Bigamist for Luciano Emmer), Rosi had a brief career as an actor, appearing in three films.
“He was a wonderful actor,” Turturro said. “He helped you physically as an actor. If he had trouble explaining something, he could act it out, and all the actors understood.”
Rosi’s wife, Giancarla Mandelli, died in in a domestic accident in 2010. He is survived by his daughter, Carolina, an actor.