Winter on Market Street, and it’s time to switch off one’s phone and retreat to the cinema cave for the 12 days of hibernation known as the Sydney Film Festival.

From the 50 or so films I caught this year, my top five (in no particular order) are below.

Afire, directed by Christian Petzold. Photo @ Sydney Film Festival


Afire is the latest from writer-director Christian Petzold.

Serial grump Leon (Thomas Schubert) and friend Felix (Langston Uibel) stay at a house near the Baltic Sea to spend time on their work removed from the distractions of city life (as though holidays don’t proffer more distractions!).

When they arrive at the house, they find out they will be sharing it with Nadja (Paula Beer). The scene is set for various dalliances and miscues – sexual and otherwise – as Leon tries to eke out a space to complete his second novel (it’s not going well).

Meanwhile, raging bushfires creep closer and closer, and the petty nature of the absurd mishaps in Leon’s life – and his blindness to the world – come into stark relief when the fires kill two of the group.

Much of the...