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The Last Black Man in San Francisco


Jimmie Fails dreams of reclaiming the Victorian home his grandfather built in the heart of San Francisco. Joined on his quest by his best friend Mont, Jimmie searches for belonging in a rapidly changing city that seems to have left them behind.

"It’s one of the most photographed cities in the world, but “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” offers a unique view of the City by the Bay. It’s a San Francisco, seen from the perspective Jimmie Fails, a third-generation African American San Franciscan who is the star and co-writer of the screenplay. Though his character bears Fails’ name and the picture is autobiographical, it’s not a documentary. Fails and co-screenwriter Rob Richert have embroidered on his experiences to create a story that melds realism with make-believe.

It’s a ground-level San Francisco, viewed from a skateboard, a bus stop, sidewalks. A scuffed-up San Francisco where a street preacher harangues from atop a milk carton, where five young street guys jaw together at all hours like a Greek chorus and where an elderly street singer delivers a plaintive version of the ’60s pop hit “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair).” They’re people living on society’s margins in a city gentrifying at a rapid rate. Joe Talbot, a longtime close friend of Fails making his directorial debut, and director of photography Adam Newport-Berra give the picture a look and a pacing that feels utterly distinctive.

It’s a San Francisco seen from the perspective of a man who is both an insider and an outsider. Fails, the native son with deep roots in the city, is also a man displaced. There he sits at the start at a bus stop, looking across the street at the classic Victorian house in the Fillmore District where he and his family once lived but were forced to leave years before due to reverses in their financial circumstances. He has little money. Apparently in his late 20s and unemployed, he gets around on a skateboard.

He’s an outsider, looking in at the place where his fondest memories were birthed. He refuses to put those memories on the shelf. Though at the start the house is owned by an elderly white couple, he sneaks in when they’re not home and paints the outside trim, much to the irritation of the woman of the house. When financial difficulties force the couple out, the place stands empty. But not for long." - Soren Anderson, Seattle Times

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Directed by: 
Joe Talbot
Running Time: 
Jimmie Fails, Jonathan Majors, Danny Glover
Screenplay by: 
Joe Talbot, Rob Richert

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