Beautiful, cool, poetic, unusual and impassioned, this is one of the best indie movies of the year, based on the real life experience of its writer and star Jimmie Fails.
It’s about two men, Jimmie and Montgomery – an amazing performance from Jonathan Majors – hanging out, talking, waiting for a bus that never comes (which is often my favourite kind of movie). Most days, it seems, they skateboard into the city and check out one of those grand San Fran mansions. Jimmie does some maintenance work, cleans and paints it lovingly.
It’s some surprise to see that people still live in it and the ageing couple there can’t quite work out how to feel about this black kid who comes to look after the place, for free. They shoo him away but can’t or won’t care for the house themselves.
Soon, we learn the white couple in the house have to leave it – financial constraints come to everyone these days – and Jimmie eyes his chance and moves into the vacant property with the help of his friend, a keen observer and poet with some autistic tendencies.
Jimmie believes the house belongs to his family, but gentrification has led to him (and most other black families) having to leave the area where his grandfather once prospered. But now tourists and the tech boom nearby have brought in a new breed of rapacious, rich settlers and attendant estate agents.
Gentrification’s a familiar theme in SF movies these days – one of my favourites from last year was Blindspotting – and Last Black Man tells it with fresh eyes and all the feels. The music is great, the pacing unusual, a laid-back Spike Lee vibe, laced with performance poetry, jazz tuba and hip hop attitude. It’s funny and charming yet extremely poignant and bursting with indignation, and I totally love the version of (If You’re Going to) San Fransisco sung by Michael Marshall, the vocalist on 90s local rap hit I Got 5 On It.
You can hear actor Jimmie Fails and director Joe Talbot talk more about the ideas and work behind The Last Black Man in San Francisco on my London Film Podcast from the LFF on @BBCSounds.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco will be released in UK cinemas from October 25.