The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2019)
It's astonishing that this remarkable film is the directorial debut by Joe Talbot. It had its world premiere at the 2019 Sundance festival, where Talbot won awards for Best Director and Creative Collaboration. At a simple level the story is about a thirty-something black man named Jimmie, who is obsessed with his childhood home — an iconic Victorian in the Fillmore district of San Francisco that is now occupied by a white couple. Nonetheless, Jimmie visits the home every week to paint and repair it. He says that his grandfather, "the first black man in San Francisco," built the home with his own hands in 1946, after coming home from the war. But now, Jimmie's father is in an SRO hotel, his mother is in LA, and his sister Wanda lives in the cheaper suburbs. When the occupants leave the house, and it goes up for sale for $4 million, Jimmie and his buddy move their stuff in and become squatters. After all, "where else can I go? I'm the last black man in San Francisco." At a deeper level, there are so many themes in this movie, some whimsical, others elegiac: family stories that we tell ourselves to make sense of history, black urban culture, race, redlining, gentrification, the city's housing crisis that is about families and not just houses, environmentalism, and the meaning of space-n-place. When some fellow bus riders complain about the city, Jimmie objects: "You can't hate San Francisco unless you first love it."
Dan Clendenin: firstname.lastname@example.org