Cass (2008)

I began writing this film ‘A bit about Frank’ almost 2 years ago and one of my main inspirations all the way through this process and beyond is a film called Cass (2008). It is a biography/ drama which was directed by Jon. S. Baird. One of the reasons why I fell in love with the film is because it is based on a true story. Cass Pennant is a real person and the film was adapted from his book which he released in 2002.

General overview 

Cass-quad-poster-1-.jpg‘Dramatisation of the events surrounding the life of Cass Pennant; one of the best-known figures of the infamous West Ham hooligan outfit, the I.C.F. (Inter City Firm). Cass Pennant (Nonson Anozie, ATONEMENT) was placed in a Dr. Barnado’s orphanage as a baby in 1950s London’ (IMBD 2008)  then a white couple from Slade green came and took him in. As Cass grows up he is introduced to the notion of racism and being looked down upon due to the colour of skin by his peers and people from his surrounding area. Cass adopted the nickname of Cassisus Clay after the boxer as he always to get into fights due to his colour. He began to follow his step father to West ham games where at 14 he became apart of the ICF. By 80’s he was one of the leading members of the inter city firm, one of West ham’s major firms. In film he goes on to have a baby with his girlfriend Elaine after his time inside for hooliganism related activities. One of his enemies from the past returns to shoot Cass when he is working as a bouncer outside a night club in south London. He goes through a very traumatic time as he step mother passes away. Some of the old members of the ICF find the men who shot Cass, in the film he is then presented with the chance to strike revenge or to walk away from his past troubled life. He opts for the latter in the fear of losing his son and his wife Elaine.

First Thoughts

This film really resinates with. It incorporates so many themes and underlying messages like racism, self hate, death, love, and sacrifice. These are all things which I either understand or have been through and I feel the same can be said for many other people. This film is deeper that football hooliganism it is time capsule of what life would’ve been like for a black boy growing up in London during the 50’s. It feels real, it is real. The West ham theme also makes this film feel closer to me as I personally have strong ties to the club. The narration is really well put together, it is interesting funny and also very explanatory. Without this key feature the film would not have worked as well, especially as it is a bio pic. I love historical films as when they are executed well they are very educational and insightful. The narrative is engaging, comical, dramatic and sad all in. It is a real hybrid of emotions which throws you in the thick of the action. I remember one of the first things I noted down when studying this film was the use of establishing shots, accompanied with a piece of informational text. This is a very common thing to do to start a new scene but it worked really well in this film, it was then I knew that I wanted to do this in my film.  (Here are the quick pictures I took when I first watched this film 2 years ago)

There is also a strong use of archive footage which heightens the historical reference in the film, this adds context and truth to the text. There are also a range other interesting characters in the film like Elaine Cass’s girlfriend, or Freeman his best mate and his step mother Doll. Elaine goes through a lot in the film. Her journey dips and turns numerous times as she experiences the joy of giving life then has to comfort her husband as he stares death in the face. I for one as an audience member really feel for her. It is her character strength along with various others which really shape this movie. Adapting a book into a film is always difficult as there is an additional pressure to bring out the vivid detail in the text through imagery, especially if it once an autobiography. This important factor again highlights why this film is really well put together. My initial rating 8/10.

Cass VS Frank


After watching this picture the first comparison I made between my film and the one in question is the similarity between Cass and Frank. The two main characters from both texts. There is strong resemblence between their stories. Cass used to be a hooligan just like Frank. Both men left their dangerous and reckless ways to start new lives for their respective families. They are also both faced with an alarming issue which stems back to the way they used to live. For Frank it is a kidney failure after years of alcohol abuse, stress, jail time and the loss of his wife. For Cass his issue is in relation to the old wars he used to have in the 80’s. It is clear to see that Cass was and is a big influence on my character Frank. They are both very big strong, aggressive, and out spoken men who demand respect.

In the film we see the chronological progression of Cass’s age through imagery of when he was a kid to when he is fully grown. In my film idea I also show Billy, Frank’s son when he was a kid right through to present day. This helps to give an insight into how the character has developed and changed over the years. I have also found that it is a good way to show a characters traits. For example Billy is very troublesome. We see this when he encourages his best friend Daniel to steal from their local corner shop. When we fast forward 10 years we agin see Billy’s troublesome side when he flirts with girls even though he has a girlfriend. These sorts of details make the character believable and 3 dimensional. ‘We want to connect with them using that weird empathic psychic tendon where we tie together our shared traits with the character, having traits makes them believable’ (25 things 2014). This underlines the importance of having traits as a character.

Having the narration from the perspective of the main character also helps, especially if the character is not an emotional person like Cass or Frank. This now becomes a channel to express what the character is feeling without having to tell one of the other characters in the film, which may spoil their tough man image. This is something I will incorporate in my film with Frank doing the narration. If you are narrating from the protagonists point of view ‘the reader is privy to all his thoughts and opinions, which means we get to know the hero faster, and often relate to him more easily’ (7 types, 2011) without affecting the way other characters view him.

I could go on for weeks about the different elements of the film, I honestly could, as there are so many parts of the narrative which I have learnt from. I will continue to use this film as the stimulus for my own as they harbour very similar topics.


IFC Films (2009) CASS OFFICIAL TRAILER. Available at: (Accessed: 6 March 2016).

IMBd editor. (2008). Cass. Available: Last accessed 3rd March 2016.

wendig, chuck (2014) 25 things A great character needs. Available at: (Accessed: 6 March 2016).

Editor (2011) The 7 narrator types: And you thought there were only Two! Available at: (Accessed: 6 March 2016).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s