The Last Black Man In San Francisco is a film made by lifelong best friends Jimmie Fails and Joe Talbot, loosely based on Fails real life experiences. Together they wrote script for film that Talbot directs and Fails stars in. The film follows Fails attempts to reclaim his childhood home in the Fillmore District of San Francisco, that he claims his grandfather built.
And it uses this story to explore powerful themes. The skyrocketing of house prices in major cities like San Francisco is a common thread in the western world, and the film depicts how this is pushing the native people in the city, often those people of colour, from being able to afford housing. That is Jimmie’s story as his family were once able to own such a house, but now he couldn’t come close to it. Meanwhile the city that he grew up in is changing rapidly and eroding these cultures that shaped it.
Whilst The Last Black Man in San Francisco touches on racial politics and gentrification in San Francisco at its core this is a beautiful film about friendship. Fails spends most of his time with his best friend, Montgomery Allen, who he also lives with. Mont spends much of his time writing short plays inspired by the life in San Francisco that he and Fails witness. Fails plays the fictionalised version of himself fantastically, and Jonathan Majors is fantastic alongside him as Mont. The pair capture and incredibly real and genuine friendship powerfully on screen, and the film is a celebration of this friendship.
Fails collaborator in the project, Joe Talbot is the one who really stands out to me in the film. His direction is sumptuous, creating a visual feast for the viewer with the help of cinematographer Adam Newport-Berra. Talbot in this film has created scenes I would happily just watch without the story at all, just for the sheer beauty of the shots, and the incorporation of the music, either from composer Emile Mosseri. And it shouldn’t be overlooked that he was able to get such a powerful performance from a first time actor like Fails, truly Talbot is a talent to watch for.