There are few films in modern cinema that exude their brilliance within the first 10 minutes. But in a similar vein to Barry Jenkins ‘If Beale Street Could Talk‘. The Last Black Man in San Francisco grabs your heart and soul from the start. The vibrant cinematography dovetailing with a sublime score, its characters rich in belonging, emotion and depth.
Winner of the Grand Jury prize at this years Sundance Film Festival. Joe Talbot’s debut feature film shines with poetic beauty. An ode to friendship, love and loss combining with a love letter to San Francisco. Its exploration of male friendship, race and belonging in a changing city layered with both sadness and joy in equal measure.
Loosely based on the real life story of Jimmie Fails and his friendship with director Joe Talbot. The film uses Jimmie’s experiences while also placing him into the role of playing himself. A brave and bold move, that works beautifully. The emotional honesty of Jimmie and his passions translating to the screen. Talbot, structuring a love letter to their lifelong friendship through the film’s intimate direction .
Jimmie (Jimmie Fails) lives alongside his best friend Montgomery (Jonathan Majors). Both sharing a small single room in Montgomery’s grandfathers (Danny Glover) house. Both men born and raised in San Francisco, yet isolated and alone as the city changes. Its poor population moved further and further from the gentrification of the changing city. It’s once thriving black neighbourhoods forgotten and pushed to the outskirts. Both Jimmie and Montgomery buzzing with a deep love for their city. While also becoming every more separate from its changing culture and development. A familiar picture of the urban change and social cleansing happening in cities across the world.
Montgomery, draws and collects the lives and stories of young black men who hang around his neighbourhood. His behaviour alien to the young men he observes. His artistic impulses connecting with a child like innocence as he monitors the isolation, culture and language of their lives. While Jimmie works as a care assistant, longing to return to the house of his childhood. A beautiful and stately gothic Victorian style house in the Fillmore District. A district once known as the Harlem of San Francisco. Its beauty now a playground for the cities rich.