The Last Black Man in San Francisco
By: Emily Menken
A hometown film has been making nationwide waves. Currently the #1 highest grossing independent film in the country, “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” is starting conversations around identity, gentrification, and the loss of sense of home.
Director/writer Joe Talbot describes his film, released June 7, as a period piece - the house just to the right of the lead Victorian home has been knocked down and replaced with a modern substitute, with individual rooms renting for $2k.
Amongst swirling rumors of another IPO boom, San Francisco’s surviving diverse communities might soon be pushed out. Rental sites across the board track median rent at an all-time high, with the average one-bedroom renting for $3.7k. According to Zillow, the median home value is now $1.4m.
“Last Black Man” isn’t an angry film, even while the loss of home and sense of self through that is palpable. It accepts that gentrification, that change, is inevitable in a dynamic world. Nothing ever remains the same. Even the characters are accepting; in a scene where the protagonist, Jimmy, is baited to fight, he turns his back and walks on, simmering in his feelings rather than throwing the first punch.
Jimmy says in one scene, “You can’t hate San Francisco unless you love it.” San Francisco is a beautiful city - but it has baggage (and filth). The film is part of a larger wave of Bay Area films created by people of color (Blindspotting, Sorry to Bother You) that depict a shared love yet resentment for the Bay Area.