Eran Riklis bristles when he is described as "political". But the Israeli filmmaker says it is a label he has had to accept, albeit with trepidation. "The word political is complicated. I used to say my films were not political, and people would smile and say 'Oh OK'."
Riklis, 56, first received worldwide attention for his 2008 film Lemon Tree, about a Palestinian widow whose lemon grove is set to be demolished to make way for the house of an Israeli security minister. Surely Israeli films do not get more political than that?
Eve Arnold became one of world's most famous photographers by learning to be invisible. In the decades after the Second World War she gained unprecedented access to film stars such as Marilyn Monroe and Marlene Dietrich and public figures such as Malcolm X, and produced intimate images as iconic as their subjects. And all by acquiring the happy knack of blending into the background.
Peter Kosminsky cannot be accused of dodging the difficult assignments. He has made films about British soldiers in Bosnia, about the Falklands War, and the conflict in Northern Ireland. On one occasion while making a documentary about Soviet conscripts in Afghanistan he was marooned on a rocky mountainside for days as shells whizzed past his ears.
As artistic director of the Gate Theatre, Abrahami has been credited with turning the 70-seat venue into a big player on the London theatre scene. Or as Guardian theatre critic Lyn Gardner says, under her direction, the Gate "is suddenly out there in the vanguard of all that is exciting, explosive and invigorating in British theatre".
Sell-out shows have included Women in Love and How To Be An Other Woman, a stage adaptation of Lorrie Moore's short story about love and ambition.
If you go to the Royal Festival Hall this Sunday, listen out for a lot of Hungarian around the foyers. Speakers of this fearsomely complex language will be out in force: January 16 marks the London launch of both the Hungarian presidency of the European Union and the bicentenary year of that Hungarian-born musical legend, Franz Liszt.
'I wasn't supposed to have become a musician," says the 63-year-old Latvian-born cellist, Mischa Maisky, in a thick Baltic accent. "With two older siblings already studying music, my mother wanted me to be 'normal'."
In fact, he was anything but. "I was a hyper-active child, running around all the time playing football and never sitting still for a moment, so it came as a great surprise when I suddenly announced I wanted to play the cello."
Darren Aronofsky became fascinated by madness - specifically paranoid schizophrenia - while working on first feature film, Pi. Set among New York's Orthodox Jewish community, its main character, Max Cohen, is a troubled number theorist who believes he may have discovered the numerical code which can explain everything in Creation, and ends up taking a power drill to his head in what must be one of the few scenes of self-trepanning in cinema history.
You can hope, but I don't think you can plan for it. That would be dangerous," says wise James Bierman about success.
Bierman knows a lot about the subject. As executive producer of the Donmar Warehouse he oversaw and was largely responsible for the theatre's greatest era - a period so great that it even overshadowed Sam Mendes's tenure in the job, and Mendes managed to persuade Nicole Kidman to appear at the 250-seat Covent Garden venue.
Those heady days seem relatively tame compared to the heights reached by the Donmar under Bierman, and the artistic director Michael Grandage.
● "She hasn't had a drink for two weeks. Two weeks may not sound like much, but it's a major achievement for her."Mitch Winehouse on his daughter Amy's gradual recovery from addiction
● "I don't go to synagogue, I'm not interested in any kind of community and I don't care if the Chief Rabbi considers me a proper Jew - although Jonathan Sacks and I are friends in an informal sort of way." Novelist Frederick Raphael doesn't let religion get in the way of a friendship