Bunch Of Fives: Johnny Massahi | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Following 300+ applications and an initial development process that included a cohort of 26 shortlisted filmmakers, shortFLIX, Creative England’s cutting-edge short film-making programme has picked five outstanding projects have been selected by a panel of commissioners to receive a production award of £10k each. 

The flourishing short filmmaking scheme, in conjunction with Sky Arts and ScreenSkills, is a valuable opportunity for new voices to create diverse and representative films for broadcast, working with experienced professionals and benefiting from further training, mentoring and support.

One of these finalists is Newcastle’s Johnny Massahi who will get to make his short, High Tide, a psychedelic rollercoaster comedy following the dysfunctional relationship between two brothers trapped in a sinking camper van.

Here, Johnny gives us a list of five scenes that have been a huge inspiration for him and High Tide.

Apu Abandons His Dreams – The World of Apu (1959), Dir: Satyajit Ray
Satyajit Ray is in good company when it comes to perfect trilogies, he’s sitting alongside masters like Kieslowski, Kobayashi, and Kiarostomai but, for me, I think this scene demonstrates why he’s head of the table. It’s a wordless commentary on the futility of ambition, enlightenment, and the human condition paired with an enchanting score by the great Ravi Shankar. A rare moment that transcends cinema and ventures into something transcendental. I’ve often found watching this sequence can give a similar experience to that of meditation.

The Butterfly Cabinet – Daisies (1966), Dir: Věra Chytilová
Sometimes it’s worth reminding myself that film doesn’t need to be bound by stringent structures, it can be far more than just a three act blueprint and Daisies is the perfect example to see that. It’s bonkers but absolutely brilliant and certainly alongside L’age D’or as pioneer of surrealist cinema. This scene, spectacular in itself, is made even more glorious in retrospect as its echoes can be seen in everything from Holy Motors to Obayashi’s House.

Bodies at Sea – Shame (1968), Dir: Ingmar Bergman
I’d argue that this is Bergman’s most important film, a devastatingly human take on the callous nature of war; it’s as significant today as it was during the Vietnam invasion. This scene is perhaps the most haunting of them all, as the couple, played by regulars Ullmann and von Sydow, flee the oncoming civil war they stumble into a mass of dead bodies scattered across the ocean. Almost as heartbreaking as it is terrifying.

The Cow Didn’t Run Away – The Cow (1969), Dir: Dariush Mehrjui
Steeped in Zoroastrian symbolism, The Cow kickstarted the Iranian New Wave with its intelligent commentary on depression and love. In this scene, Masht Hassan’s transmigration into his cow has just begun and it shows a moment not too dissimilar from the plot of A Taste of Cherry where characters attempt to talk him, a man who has already made his mind up, out of a seemingly inevitable choice. There’s something enigmatic and spiritual about this scene, perhaps it’s Masht Hassan’s overconfidence or maybe Ghovanlou’s glorious cinematography, I can’t seem to put my finger on it but it’s something I find myself coming back to over and over again trying to figure out its magic.

Graveyard Trip – Easy Rider (1969), Dir: Dennis Hopper
What else can you say about this film – or this scene even – that hasn’t already been said? It’s the reel of 16mm that simultaneously gave us one the greatest American movies ever made and at the same time destroyed Hopper and Fonda’s friendship forever. It may not have the VFX of Enter the Void or Taking Woodstock but, to this day, this scene is one of the most accurate portrayals of the psychedelic experience to ever grace the silver screen, it’s matched only by the genius of Nic Roeg’s feature debut Performance or Barbet Schroeder’s More. An appropriate beginning of the end for both Wyatt and Billy and a standout moment in, possibly, my favourite movie of all time.

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