What do a Christian, a Muslim and a Millwall FC fan all have in common?

The Masses directed by Dorothy Allen-Pickard sheds light on three seemingly separate communities and their relationship to their surroundings of South Bermondsey.

19 March 2020


Growing up in south east London, the filmmaker Dorothy Allen-Pickard has always been surrounded by a multitude of different cultures. Amongst one of the most multicultural corners of the country, Dorothy found herself immersed at a very interesting cross section of society, a complex weaving of footsteps which overlapped different religions, football clubs and cultures. “While the language of football didn’t mean much to me,” says the self-taught filmmaker who developed the skill of shooting and editing at university, “I understood it metaphorically, as a way for fans to relate to one another.”

She discerned that, like religion, the culture of football can help to create a sense of place, history and belonging. It can act as a kind of social magnet for communities to come together, similar to a place or worship for instance. But on a more sour note, these community bonds are under threat. “The right wing media encourages marginalised groups to blame each other for social issues,” says Dorothy, “such as the shortage of housing and state resources, and little is being done to demonstrate what these groups may have in common. Football and religion can help give meaning to people’s lives, however, this tribalism can also create fracture that draw them apart.”

It’s a topic explored in the director’s new film, The Masses. A poignant and visceral film, the 12-and-a-half minute short delves into the lives of three south Londoners, and their devotion to their respective religions; Islam, Christianity and football. Though they all reside in South Bermondsey, the three neighbours seemingly have little in common, but as the film unfurls, the question of just how much our identities are informed by our surroundings comes under fire. As us, the viewers, gain further insight into these three men, slowly, it becomes clear that they have much more in common than meets the eye.

GalleryDorothy Allen-Pickard: The Masses

“Rather than replicate the toxic narratives of the media that focus on differences,” continues Dorothy, “I aim to explore how, as the MP Jo Cox stated – who was murdered in 2016 by a far-right extremist: We are far more united and have far more in common than that which divides us." The deeply human film responds to a series of startling statistics that the director sought to respond to. According to the Independent for example, religious hate crime has risen 40 per cent in England and Wales in the past year, with more than half of it directed at Muslims. Kick it Out reported a 22 per cent increase in racism amongst football fans in the UK while The Guardian declared that a new £2 billion regeneration project could see Millwall FC’s stadium demolished.

Instead of further separating the divide between these three camps however, The Masses brings them together, providing a shared context for these three men residing in the same borough. It offers a subjective insight into three distinct community’s understanding of the world, touching on aspects of life universally understood. Tensions between family members, worship, not to mention a desire to belong somewhere, or at least feel like you belong.

For the director, shooting the film and in turn being welcomed into the different communities, was a great experience. She recalls how she got to know the religious leaders and devout football fans, attending services and games, eventually understanding “why people live for football and religion.” One particular highlight involved listening to each protagonist singing in tribute to their respective cause. “I was blown away by the quality of their voices,” remembers Dorothy, who used the resounding footage for the film’s opening, layering the three harmonious baritones against one another in the final edit. “I’d love for The Masses to encourage viewers to celebrate our differences and similarities,” she finally goes on to say, posing that “if these three men can understand each other’s perspectives, what’s to say it can’t happen on a larger scale?”

GalleryDorothy Allen-Pickard: The Masses

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Dorothy Allen-Pickard: The Masses

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Jyni Ong

Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor.

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