The Last Black Man in San Francisco

I saw this film the other day and it blew me away. It’s beautifully shot and captures what it feels like to live in San Francisco better than any other movie I can recall. It was made by two native San Franciscan’s, Jimmie Fails and Joe Talbot, who funded it with a successful Kickstarter campaign. This City can be a small town and I’m really surprised I didn’t hear about this movie until Thrasher posted about it when it was released:

THERE ARE A HUNDRED AND ONE REASONS why this film is important to Thrasher. It’s about the city we call home. It’s about a city that, in allowing rapid transformation in the last twenty years, has evicted the color and vibrancy that made San Francisco unlike any other place on the planet. It’s about a young man and his skateboard and the freedom that a simple plank of wood and wheels can provide. The film’s main character Jimmie Fails is not literally the LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO, but forgive him for feeling that way. Over the last couple decades the black population of our city has been decimated, with big money interests obliterating diversity in a town that has long touted its inclusiveness. Sadly, the woes extend beyond skin color, as the term LAST stands for many of us. We’re talking last artists, last musicians, last dreamers, as our city becomes a playground for newcomers with six figure salaries.

We don’t do film reviews and I’m far from qualified to be a critic, but I’d like to tell you more about why we urge you to go see this movie. Studios make movies set San Francisco and then they go film it in Vancouver or some shit. Native son and director Joe Talbot insisted the entire production take place in SF and much of it was filmed on Innes Street in Hunters Point, quite literally Thrasher’s backyard. The film is based around the life of Jimmie Fails and Joe is his best friend. This isn’t some contrived Hollywood tale designed to pull at your heartstrings. This is two homies, from very different backgrounds, brought together by the cosmic forces of our city, capturing the beautiful and grotesque aspects of a place at war with its identity. Jimmie is a skateboarder and skateboarding is woven into the tapestry of this movie, from the opening scene to guest appearances from Daewon Song and Andy Roy, to hill-bombing stuntwork from Thrasher’s very own Nile Gibbs.

Here’s the trailer:

Being a San Francisco Victorian house nut, I drove past the house where the movie was filmed. It’s located on South Van Ness Avenue in the Mission District and looks mostly the same as it does in the film. My only complaint about the accuracy of the movie is that they say the house was built in the 1850s, but to anyone who knows anything about San Francisco architecture it’s obvious that this house dates from the 1880s or 1890s (it was actually built in 1889). A minor complaint.

Here’s a really interesting article about the history of the house, written by someone who lived there as a renter.

Photo I took of the Last Black Man in San Francisco house at 959 South Van Ness Avenue


They Shall Not Grow Old

Colorized and restored footage on the left vs. the original footage on the right

I finally got a chance to watch the new Peter Jackson documentary about WWI, “They Shall Not Grow Old.” The film is almost entirely composed of restored BBC footage of the war with voiceover narration by actual WWI veterans. The most impressive part is how elaborately the footage was restored and modernized. Not only was it cleaned up and colorized, but they also fixed the frame rate and speed. This makes the previously jerky 100-year-old footage smooth and natural as a modern HD movie. Since the footage is also silent, Jackson had voice actors read the lips of the soldiers in the footage and dub exactly what they were saying in real life. It’s pretty astounding. The movie itself is a bit slow, especially in the beginning, but it’s effective in bringing the soldier’s stories to life so you can understand how truly awful of an experience WWI was.

If you haven’t seen it yet, check out the trailer.