This year, that giant of Australian cinema, Jack Thompson, is among the judges – an appearance that puts the icing on the cake of this being the first time since 2019 that the festival has physically hosted the session. In 2020 the nominated films were presented in Virtual Reality but the return to in-person is one of the 2022 Festival’s great joys.

This year features strong contenders, all under 25, with creativity, intelligence, wit and social consciousness shining through in the work.

Among them is Mariella S. Solano, (25) a Peruvian-Australian director and writer, and producer of two short films. A graduate of the Australian Film Television and Radio School, Mariella’s directorial debut, Alba, tells the story of an aspiring Peruvian performer deciding who she is dancing for – others or for herself. It’s a film that highlights Mariella’s principal concerns: the details of intimacy, sensual connection and relationship dynamics.

Choice is also a theme in Natalia Stawyskyj’s All Silent Dogs, a magical meditation on prejudice, family and freedom. Despite having a debilitating chronic illness, Natalia (24) has nurtured her passion for filmmaking, and in All Silent Dogs drew on her own experience to tell a powerful story about embracing individuality. Teenaged Ylva faces the choice of giving up her ability to transform into a dog or face the familial and societal consequences of keeping it. After moving through her complicated life, she finds authenticity and honesty.

Cusp, from Sydney-based Erika Felton (24), also examines the difficult decisions we all face – when to leave our loved ones to travel overseas, and how to say goodbye. Erika’s film is an elegy to “the beautiful heartache that occurs when queer friendships are ripped apart by countless overseas moves”, and a celebration of what it means to be alive.

In Dating Violet, Wollongong-based Holly Trenaman (24) tells the story of Violet and her small hometown after she is dumped by her boyfriend and her parents contemplate divorce. Violet realises she has never known love, but imprinted with the scars of domestic violence, she begins her road to recovery through friendship with a young man going through similar challenges.

Hatchback is an archetypical Aussie black comedy from Riley Sugars (25) which was nominated for the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards Best Short Film (2022). This how-not-to dispose of a dead body tale is Riley’s first comedy: it took out the Best Director Award at CineFestOZ and was screened on opening night of the St Kilda Film Festival and at Perth Revelation International Film Festival.

James Weir’s Julia is also about men up in arms – and much more. Indeed, James (25) describes the central story of a family arm-wrestling battle as “a meditation on the existential dread one feels when their perspective of their place in the world suddenly shifts”. The drama is real, and different for everyone.

Lumber, from 23-year-old Wynnum resident Harry Sabulis, sees a lonely lumberjack visit a gay bar for the first time looking for love. The film has its Australian Premiere at BBFF2022 following its World Premiere at the Oscar-qualifying queer film festival Out on Film 2022 in Atlanta.

Match Point was born out of director 22 year old Alisha Mehra’s desire to redefine Australian cinema, to better represent an authentic Australia. Her tale of two first-generation Australians who cross paths at the annual badminton competition raises questions of identity, self-worth and survival.

In XERO SUGAR, Lachlan Anderson-Schmidt (20) takes us on a journey through a man’s subconscious in pursuit of a mysterious woman. It is Tamworth-born Lachlan’s first experimental film using non-conformist techniques, including VHS style and neon lighting to create a dreamy, fantastical sci-fi tone.

Madeleine Neate (24) has created Thallium Enthusiasts, a dark comedy based on the real murder mystery in which a group of women in Sydney in the 1950s used a domestic rat poison to kill. The film made it into the top 25 shortlist for the UK Film Festival and screened at the Melbourne Women in Film Festival.

Four other films made by young Australians deserve a mention:
• Former Nominee and Byron local Luca Fox (25) drew upon his own experience for You Know How He Is, a story of neurological diversity and brotherly love.
• BBFF2019’s Young Australian Filmmaker of The Year Winner Claudia Bailey (25), for Right Here, in which Grace comes out as non-binary to their parents and finds self-acceptance.
• Lennox lad Marlon Denning is the Festival’s youngest filmmaker, with a charming lockdown film about his finding company and comfort with an octopus near his home in Lennox Head. The Rock Pool Waltz reveals 15-year-old Marlon as a talent to watch.
• Kitale Wilson (21) delivers a captivating adventure docu-drama Exposed where a young man must face the journey of dreaming as he breaks free from the deafening city and cycles to the far-off mountains.