The Last Black Man in San Francisco
|The Last Black Man in San Francisco|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Joe Talbot|
|Music by||Emile Mosseri|
|Edited by||David Marks|
|Box office||$4.6 million|
The Last Black Man in San Francisco is a 2019 American drama film. Its plot centers on the efforts of a young Black man to reclaim his childhood home, a now-expensive Victorian house in a gentrified neighborhood of San Francisco.
The film is the feature debut of director and producer Joe Talbot. Talbot wrote the screenplay with Rob Richert and the story with Jimmie Fails, on whose life the film is partly based. The movie stars Fails, Jonathan Majors, Tichina Arnold, Rob Morgan, Mike Epps, Finn Wittrock, and Danny Glover.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 26, 2019. It won awards for Best Directing and a Special Jury Prize for Creative Collaboration. It was released on June 7, 2019, by A24 in the United States.
Jimmie Fails is a young man living in Bayview-Hunters Point, San Francisco. He spends his time wandering around town with his best friend Montgomery "Mont" Allen, with whom he also lives, along with Mont's grandfather. Jimmie waits for the bus with Mont every day, during which they see various states of change in the city and protesters trying to stop it. The two then skateboard to a Victorian house in the city's Fillmore District in which Jimmie grew up and says was built by his grandfather in 1946. The home is currently occupied by an older white couple, and Jimmie often laments to Mont about how the couple doesn't take care of the house while doing his best to maintain it himself. One day, Jimmie and Mont visit the house only to find the woman crying on her husband's shoulder and movers taking the couple's things. They learn from a mover that the woman's mother had died and now she and her sister are fighting over the house.
They visit a realtor to ask about the home. The realtor was not aware of the current situation, but is very familiar with the house. He tells them it sounds "like an estate thing" and the home might stay empty for years while the sisters fight over it. They use this opportunity to visit the now vacant house and be free to finally re-explore the house in its entirety. Deciding to take up residence, the pair visit Jimmie's aunt Wanda, who gives them the furniture that they had when living there. Jimmie and Mont ride back to the home with the help of Wanda's husband, Ricky, and unpack the items, displaying them throughout the house.
One night, Mont invites Kofi, a childhood friend of Jimmie's and his, to the house, and the three enjoy a night of relaxation. However, the next day, Kofi says hurtful things to Jimmie about his father to appear dominant after being called "feminine" by his friends. Jimmie and Mont later find out from Kofi's friends that Kofi has been killed by a man with whom he had a scuffle. At the same time, the pair find that their possessions have been thrown out of the house and left on the sidewalk, in addition to a sign posted by the realtor to which they went earlier. Feeling betrayed, Jimmie fights back by putting all of it right back in. Mont, however, goes to the realtor, who reveals that the house wasn't built by Jimmie's grandfather, and has the deed to prove that it was actually built in the 1850s.
Mont writes a play about the aftermath of Kofi's death and encourages Jimmie to advertise it to passersby, holding it in the "witch hat" of the house. On the day of the performance, Jimmie's estranged father, with whom he had previously gotten into an argument, shows. During the performance, Mont shows various social media posts about Kofi's death, all of which he proclaims show that these people never really knew Kofi. He asks various people in the crowd to recount their opinions on Kofi, including Jimmie, who says that even though the last thing that Kofi ever said to him was mean, his experience with him in a group home was friendly, saying that "people aren't one thing". Mont then confronts Jimmie with the truth that Jimmie's grandfather did not build the house. This angers Jimmie, who storms out, followed by the rest of the play's audience.
Jimmie reunites with Mont at the dock before going home, telling him that he knew all along that his grandfather didn't build the house. He watches TV with Mont and Grandpa Allen before going to bed. Mont wakes up and finds Jimmie gone, with a note saying he is leaving San Francisco for good and thanking Mont for being his friend. Mont is left alone, and while he continues the various daily activities that the two would share, when done alone they no longer carry the same sense of joy. He watches from the dock, where Jimmie is far away, rowing in the water outside the Golden Gate Bridge.
- Jimmie Fails as Jimmie Fails
- Jonathan Majors as Montgomery "Mont" Allen
- Danny Glover as Grandpa Allen
- Tichina Arnold as Wanda Fails
- Rob Morgan as James Sr.
- Mike Epps as Bobby
- Finn Wittrock as Clayton Newsom
- Isiain Lalime as Gunna (of Chorus)
- Jamal Trulove as Kofi (of Chorus)
- Jordan Gomes as Jordan (of Chorus)
- Maximilienne Ewalt as Mary
- Jello Biafra as Tour Guide
- San Quinn as Grown Ass Man
- Daewon Song as Uncle Ricky
- Andy Roy as Andy
- Willie Hen as The Preacher
- Thora Birch as Becca
- Tonya Glanz as Nina
- Sergio Gonzalez as Banker
- Wynner Gonzalez as Andrew Joseph
Talbot and Fails grew up together in San Francisco and first discussed the possibility of making the movie as teenagers. However, they found it difficult to make the film in the City due to the lack of a film scene within the region and neither of them had any proper film training nor knew anybody within the industry. Talbot got some initial advice on how to start from a cold email to Barry Jenkins, who shot Medicine for Melancholy (2008) in San Francisco, before he left to shoot Moonlight (2016).
In May 2015, the two shot a preview trailer to raise funds for the making of the film and launched a successful Kickstarter campaign that ultimately surpassed their goal of $50,000 by more than $25,000. Within a month, 1,500 contributors backed the campaign totaling a little over $75,000. The campaign garnered film industry interest as well as national press, and through viral success cemented Fails, who was the face of the #lastblackman fundraising campaign, as a local San Francisco figure.
When Fails and Talbot's short film, American Paradise, made it to 2017 Sundance Film Festival, they met Christina Oh of Plan B Entertainment, who later made introductions for Talbot and producer, Khaliah Neal, to the rest of the company at a shooting for Ad Astra (2019). Jeremy Kleiner, of Plan B, helped pick up the film for production. Principal photography began in April 2018.
In May 2018, it was officially announced that Jonathan Majors, Danny Glover, Tichina Arnold, Rob Morgan, Mike Epps, Finn Wittrock and Thora Birch had joined the cast of the film, with Khaliah Neal producing the film alongside Plan B Entertainment and A24 distributing.
The creative team had wanted to cast someone from San Francisco in the role Kofi, the childhood friend who struggles to be vulnerable with his peers. They met Jamal Trulove at an after-school program in San Francisco while casting for child extras. Trulove was previously falsely charged with murdering his friend in 2007. He was granted a retrial in 2015 and was subsequently acquitted. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors later approved a $13.1 million settlement to him for being framed of murder by the police. Given his background and personal resonance for the role, Trulove was cast on the spot that day.
Constant demolitions and alterations of San Francisco sites complicated the film production.
The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 26, 2019. It released in the United States on June 7, 2019, having previously been scheduled to be released on June 14.
On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 93% based on 186 reviews, with an average rating of 8.35/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "An affecting story powerfully told, The Last Black Man in San Francisco immediately establishes director Joe Talbot as a filmmaker to watch." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 83 out of 100, based on 38 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".
In her New York Times review, Manohla Dargis made the film a NYT Critics Pick and called it "ravishing, haunting and exultant." The Los Angeles Times's Justin Chang called the film "a gorgeous, moving ode to a city in flux." The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy said it was "by far the best narrative film I saw [at Sundance]. . . . Every scene is fresh and unpredictable, visual poetry and realism are exquisitely woven together." Rolling Stone called it "the best movie of the year" as of June 2019, and Deadline Hollywood's awards columnist Pete Hammond said that it was "the one movie I have seen that should have Oscar written all over it" as of July. Barack Obama rated it as one of the best films of 2019.
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipient(s) and nominee(s)||Result||Ref(s)|
|Sundance Film Festival||February 2, 2019||U.S. Dramatic Directing Award||Joe Talbot||Won|||
|Special Jury Award – Creator Collaboration||Joe Talbot||Won|
|U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize||Joe Talbot||Nominated|
|Directors Guild of America Awards||January 25, 2020||Outstanding Directing – First-Time Feature Film||Joe Talbot||Nominated|||
|Casting Society of America||January 30, 2020||Low Budget – Comedy or Drama||Julia Kim and Nina Henninger||Won|||
|Black Reel Awards||February 6, 2020||Outstanding Independent Film||Joe Talbot, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Christina Oh and Khaliah Neal||Won|||
|Outstanding Actor||Jimmie Fails||Nominated|
|Outstanding Supporting Actor||Jonathan Majors||Nominated|
|Outstanding Breakthrough Performance, Male||Jimmie Fails||Nominated|
|Outstanding Ensemble||Julia Kim||Nominated|
|Outstanding Original Score||Emile Mosseri||Nominated|
|Outstanding Cinematography||Adam Newport-Berra||Nominated|
|Independent Spirit Awards||February 8, 2020||Best Supporting Male||Jonathan Majors||Nominated|||
|Best First Feature||Joe Talbot||Nominated|
The Last Black Man in San Francisco appeared on many critics' lists of the best films of 2019, including:
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