The Last Black Man in San Francisco

Front Row at the Movies by Shirrel Rhoades

5/5 (1)

Thomas Wolfe wrote “You Can’t Go Home Again.” That’s kinda the theme of a film called “The Last Black Man in San Francisco,” still playing at Tropic Cinema. But in this case Jimmie Falls did.

In this semi-autobiographical story, we meet Jimmie Falls playing himself. The actor returns to San Francisco where he had lived until he was three-years-old in a magnificent old Victorian house that his grandfather had owned in the Fillmore District. When his grandfather died, the family couldn’t afford the upkeep and the house was foreclosed on. Jimmie spent the remainder of his childhood in foster homes and public housing.

Jimmie felt he was “slowly being disappeared from the city, that his entire presence was being erased like yesterday’s chalkboard lesson.”

This fictionalize story recounts Jimmie’s return to the predominantly middle-class black neighborhood to reclaim his grandfather’s home.

“It was an old Victorian but it didn’t have as many intricate details as that house in the movie,” Jimmie remembers. But he readily admits that in real life he never tried to surreptitiously repair it like his fictional counterpart did. “I would go back all the time but I wouldn’t fix it up. But I would just sit out there, you know?”

He co-wrote the story with his longtime friend Joe Talbot. They created a Kickstarter campaign to fund this indie outing (it would be Joe Talbot’s first time as a feature director) and – lo and behold! – movie star Danny Glover phoned them to express an interest in helping them get the film off the ground. Turns out, Glover is himself a native of the City on the Bay.

Glover took a role in the film too, playing Jimmie’s friend’s grandfather.

“The Last Black Man in San Francisco” won two awards at Sundance in February and then got picked up by A24 (the distributor for “Lady Bird,” “Moonlight”). Word-of-mouth says it’s one of the year’s must-see movies.

“It’s really our friendship that kind of made this movie happen,” says Joe Talbot. “The movie came out of us just walking around the city as friends … We’d talk about life, music, girls, whatever. And we talked about Jimmie’s life, obviously, so informally those conversations – which, at the time, I don’t think we were thinking much about – became a movie.”

Email Shirrel: srhoades@aol.com

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