Four years ago, two best friends— Jimmie Fails and Joe Talbot— released a demo trailer with a soft edged, romantic feel for their future movie called The Last Black Man in San Francisco. The trailer quickly went viral and led to the financial help needed to bring the pair’s docu-fiction flick to fruition.
Based in part on Fails’s life in the bay area, The Last Black Man in San Francisco mirrors the city’s current day realities: lack of affordable housing, an influx of well-paid techno-geeks, displacement of people of color and gentrification.
In the story, the young African American Fails refuses to give up a long-held dream of returning to his childhood home. The problem he faces is that the area has been gentrified, and the two story Victorian built by his grandfather, now worth $4 million, is owned by a
wealthy white couple.
Back in the 1940s, his grandfather moved into the city’s Fillmore District and shared the neighborhood with Japanese-American families. When the latter were shipped off to internment camps during World War II, the remaining black residents took special pride in the ghetto area, dubbing it “the Harlem of the West” and crowning the grandfather as the “first black man in San Francisco.”
Eventually, the Fails’s family unit fell apart, the house was sold and people moved elsewhere.
When not skateboarding aimlessly around town, Fails fantasizes about one day owning the home of his youth. He has been living in cramped quarters with his quiet and brooding best friend Montgomery Allen (Jonathan Majors) and Mont’s burned-out, invalid father,
Papa Allen (Danny Glover). Fails works as a part-time hospice nurse, while Allen toils as a fishmonger.
While the owners are away, the two buddies sneak onto the hallowed
property and do touch-up painting and tend the garden, with Fails always wondering what life would have been like if nothing had
One day, the house becomes vacant.
Bringing along Allen, Fails boldly becomes a squatter in the mansion,
fills the rooms with his aunt’s old stored furniture and has the gas company account switched to his name.
It becomes obvious that the young man’s unrealistic utopia can’t possibly last, but we’re left hoping that somehow it will.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco is a powerful testimony to the power of friendship and the elusiveness of stability. The diverse cast also includes Jello Biafra and Thora Birch.
The movie is scheduled to release this month – check your local listings.
Read More From Randal C. Hill HERE.