Carlos Saura
Spanish director Carlos Saura poses during a photocall for his musical Fados in Madrid, on November 21, 2007. Image Credit: AFP

MADRID: Acclaimed Spanish director Carlos Saura, who hit the global spotlight in the 1960s with his critiques of Franco's dictatorship, died Friday at the age of 91, the Spanish film academy said.

"He died today at his home at the age of 91, surrounded by his loved ones," the academy wrote on Twitter, describing him as "one of the most important filmmakers in the history of Spanish cinema".

Born on January 4, 1932 in the northeastern town of Huesca, Saura was known for his "never-ending activity" and "love for his craft, which continued until the end," with his latest film hitting Spanish cinemas just a week ago, it said.

He died just a day before he was to have been awarded an honorary Goya, Spain's equivalent of the Oscars, for his decades-long career which was to have been presented at the 37th Goya Awards ceremony in the southern city of Seville.

"Carlos Saura, filmmaker, photographer, set designer and all-round artist, has gone," tweeted Culture Minister Miquel Iceta, saying his career had received "all the awards imaginable".

Often named as one of the greats of Spanish cinema alongside names like Luis Bunuel and Pedro Almodovar, Saura directed some 50 films over a career spanning half a century, during which he received numerous awards.

In his early years, he focused on the evils of society, first winning international recognition with "The Hunt" (1966), a critique of the regime of dictator Francisco Franco which won the Berlin Film Festival's second-highest award.

After the dictatorship ended with Franco's death in 1975, he shifted his focus to his love of music and dance with his 1980s trilogy of flamenco films "Blood Wedding", "Carmen" and "A Love Bewitched".

Many critics consider his best work to be "Cria Cuervos" (1975), an allegory of the dictatorship that suffocated his country until that same year, and which won the Jury Prize at Cannes a year later.