Benjamin Gilmour, Writer-director

Australian film-maker Gilmour clearly relishes a challenge - he shot his debut feature, Son Of A Lion, in the radical north-west frontier of Pakistan, with non professionals and entirely undercover (foreigners are not allowed in the province). The result is a gritty drama about an Islamic boy in search of an education, which won the best feature award at the Inside Film Awards in Australia in November.

Steve McQueen

Steve McQueen, Director

Turner-prize winner McQueen made one of the most talked-about UK directorial debuts of the year with his drama based on the final weeks of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands, with Michael Fassbender in the lead role. Hunger had its world premiere in Un Certain Regard in Cannes, where it won the Camera d'Or, and went on to pick up the Discovery award at Toronto. McQueen was also named best debut director at the British Independent Film Awards (Bifas).

Felix Lajko, Actor

Hungary's Lajko not only composed the award-winning soundtrack to Kornel Mundruczo's Delta, but took on the main part midway through filming after the film's original lead actor, Lajos Bertok, died in an accident. Lajko gives a strong performance in his debut acting role as a man who embarks on an incestuous relationship with his half-sister. A Cannes Fipresci winner this year, Delta had already taken the grand prize in Hungarian Film Week in February.

Jenny Lumet

Jenny Lumet, Writer

Film-making may have been in Lumet's blood (her father is the legendary director Sydney Lumet), but it took the 41-year-old drama teacher years to discover her true calling as a script writer. The result is Rachel Getting Married, a portrait of complicated family relationships starring Anne Hathaway and directed by Jonathan Demme, which opened the Venice film festival this year and is generating serious awards buzz for Hathaway.

Rodrigo Pla, Writer-director

Mexican director Pla's The Desert Within is based on his screenplay (written with Laura Santullo) depicting Mexico's 1926 Cristero War. Shot before his Toronto Fipresci-winning debut La Zona, but completed later, the film swept the board at the main awards in the Mexican section of this year's Guadalajara festival as well as picking up the best feature award at Argentina's Mar Del Plata in November.

Johannes Krisch

Johannes Krisch, Actor

Austrian actor Krisch prepared for his role in Revanche by spending time around seedy brothels and police stations. The result is a standout performance in Gotz Spielmann's drama, as an assistant to a brothel owner. Winner of the Europa Cinema Label at Berlin this year, Revanche is Austria's foreign-language Oscar submission.

Anthony Fabian, Director

Already an acclaimed short film and documentary maker, Fabian's debut narrative feature, Skin, about a woman born black to white parents in 1955 South Africa, was a big hit at Toronto and played in the world cinema section of Los Angeles' AFI Fest. The film features a stand-out performance from Sophie Okonedo.

Gianni Di Gregorio, Writer-director

It has been a good year for Italy's di Gregorio. He co-wrote the Cannes Grand Prix winner Gomorrah and made his directorial debut, aged 57, with Mid August Lunch. It was the surprise winner of the Luigi de Laurentiis prize for best first film at the Venice film festival. Di Gregorio also takes the central role in the film, about a middle-aged man living in Rome who cares for his overbearing widowed mother.

Barmak Akram, Writer-director

France-based Afghani TV documentary maker Akram not only wrote and directed his debut feature, Kabuli Kid, but also composed the music. A portrait of a city recovering from 25 years of war, seen through the eyes of a taxi driver, Kabuli Kid premiered in Critics Week in Venice, before screening in the official selection at Toronto.

Sergei Dvortsevoy, Director

Kazakhstan documentary maker Dvortsevoy has been a big hit on the festival circuit this year with his debut feature Tulpan, about a boy who returns from naval service with dreams of becoming a shepherd. It won the Un Certain Regard award at Cannes and has since moved festival audiences from Tokyo to Goa.

Ari Folman

Ari Folman, Writer-director

Israeli film-maker Folman's animated documentary Waltz With Bashir is a serious Oscar contender in both the animated and foreign film categories. Dealing with the Israeli incursion into Lebanon in 1982, Bashir is the fifth highest grossing documentary of the year at the worldwide box office.

Emmanuel Bourdieu, Writer-director

French film-maker Bourdieu co-wrote Arnaud Desplechin's tragic-comic ensemble piece A Christmas Tale (which debuted in Competition at Cannes) as well as directing and writing the psychological thriller Intrusions.

Fabrice du Welz, Director

Asian tsunami drama Vinyan sees Belgian director Du Welz take a thoroughly international approach after 2004's small-scale Calvaire. Shot in Thailand, in English, with French and British leads (Emmanuelle Beart and Rufus Sewell), the film premiered at Venice and went to Toronto where Sony Pictures picked up US rights.

Tom Hardy

Tom Hardy, actor

UK actor Tom Hardy has been quietly making a name for himself with performances in RockNRolla and Layer Cake, but it is his latest role, as Britain's most notorious prisoner in Nicolas Winding Refn's Bronson (pictured) which may catapult him to a new level. Hardy will next be seen as Heathcliff in a TV adaptation of Wuthering Heights and on the big screen in Thick As Thieves with Morgan Freeman.

Martin McDonagh, Writer-director

Irish playwright and short film-maker McDonagh entered the world of features with a bang this year, with his hit-man drama In Bruges, which opened Sundance and has enjoyed critical success ever since. McDonagh won the best screenplay award at the British Independent Film Awards (Bifas) and the film has been nominated for three Golden Globes.