If there was ever a director who could be described as international, it was Anthony Minghella. His career, tragically cut short by his death last week at the age of just 54, was one unhampered by restrictive national borders - a worldview Screen has always sought to serve.

Yes, he was a Brit whose films such as Truly, Madly, Deeply and Breaking And Entering showed his affection for London and, yes, his work as chairman of the British Film Institute (BFI) showed his dedication to the growth of British cinema.

But his life showed that he was a proud and generous member of a global family of film-makers, a teller of complex stories from different cultures and a savvy operator who developed high-level industry relationships inside Hollywood and out.

His latest film, the two-hour adaptation of Alexander McCall Smith's The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, which screened on the BBC in the UK over Easter weekend, is a perfect example of how he embraced both popular literary material and the challenge of shooting in Botswana.

Indeed, in the large-scale films he chose to direct, notably The English Patient and Cold Mountain, he set himself enormous technical challenges on locations in Tunisia, Italy, Romania and the US, and both projects nearly fell through.

I first met Minghella when he started to screen The English Patient in London and he was recalling, with not a little horror, how 20th Century Fox pulled out of the film weeks before shooting was scheduled to start. 'History said it was a postponement for a few weeks but, at the time, we thought it was potential abandonment,' he said.

He and his indomitable producer Saul Zaentz found what Minghella called 'unlikely angels' in Bob and Harvey Weinstein and Miramax Films who took over financing of the film, their most expensive at that time.

'I'm so miserable about the fact that it costs so much money to make films,' Minghella told me. 'It burdens you with stuff I don't want to deal with.'

But Minghella learned to balance the finance and the art, cementing his relationship with Miramax and, after they left, with the Weinsteins at The Weinstein Company.

The brothers also rescued Cold Mountain when MGM pulled out and Miramax shouldered the entire budget - its most expensive project at that time as well, although ironically the financial imperative to shoot the film in Romania led to grumblings among US unions and a vicious underground campaign to deprive it of nominations for awards.

Minghella developed a close friendship with Harvey Weinstein and was a vocal defender of the mogul, laughing off his 'Harvey Scissorhands' reputation in those days. The two shared films with each other and Minghella once told me he relished Weinstein's passion for new international cinema.

Minghella also allied himself with one of the most respected figures in Hollywood, Sydney Pollack, the Oscar-winning director and his producer on The Talented Mr Ripley. In 2002, he partnered with Pollack in Mirage Enterprises and the two went on to produce films for Tom Tykwer, Phillip Noyce and Richard Eyre, among others.

He laboured tirelessly to support their films, immersing himself in work on the set of Noyce's Catch A Fire in South Africa, for example. That was in addition to working behind the scenes with non-Mirage film-makers on scripts and in the editing suite without taking any credit.

The last time I saw Minghella he was in New York in 2006 promoting Breaking And Entering, his first film made in the UK since 1991. Although it was not a great success, it again featured his themes of hope and second chances.

'I believe in the good in people,' he said then. 'I can't bear fiction which is nihilistic. I don't see the point in it. Why do we go and watch things which say that life is bad and people are bad and it's all a mess. It's got to be that we see that there is a way of forgiving each other.'

Perhaps in an age of style over substance, Minghella's focus on narrative and message seems old-fashioned. But young film-makers today can only aspire to his artful storytelling and his grandly ambitious embrace of the world as his canvas. For Minghella, no mountain was too high.