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Wednesday 13 November 2019

Last Black Man In San Francisco star: Gentrification left me isolated in my city

The film follows a man who feels displaced in the city where he grew up.

Jimmie Fails stars as Jimmie Fails and Jonathan Majors as Montgomery Allen (David Moir / A24)
Jimmie Fails stars as Jimmie Fails and Jonathan Majors as Montgomery Allen (David Moir / A24)

By Laura Harding, PA Senior Entertainment Correspondent

The star and writer of a new film about gentrification has said he never could have imagined how relevant the film would feel around the world.

Jimmie Fails, who devised the film The Last Black Man In San Francisco with his childhood friend and director Joe Talbot, said he was worried the years-long process of making the movie made him fear it would resonate with audiences less.

He told the PA news agency: “I didn’t think it would be as relevant when we finished the movie.

“But as it got longer and longer, we were getting older, it was still happening but do people still really care about talking about it?

“That was always one of my fears and it ended up being perfect timing actually.”

In the film Fails plays a version of himself in a rapidly changing city that seems to have left him behind and Talbot said he was stunned when he set up a Kickstarter to fund it and received support from all over the world from people who identified with the story.

He said: “We started getting emails from people as far as London, we literally got a substantial number of our backers from London and there were people writing saying how much they identified with Jimmy’s character because the same exact thing is happening here.

“That was years ago and that is the sort of tragic thing is the film has become only more universal every year since we began working on it because more places have gone through these changes.

“We are seeing people wrestle with this strange question of if I can’t afford this city that raised me, what do I identify as?

“If we can’t live in San Francisco are we still San Franciscans? It’s a strange feeling.”

Fails added he is one of the last of his friends who is still living in San Francisco as more people move south to Los Angeles where living is cheaper and he said: “Everyone is down there, I am really isolated in the city right now to still be there.”

Talbot said it feels particularly sad to see so many creatives leave San Francisco, the home of the Beats, because of the city’s rich history with poetry and music.

He said: “All the people who made the beautiful music and films came to San Francisco, they are not San Franciscans, they aren’t natives.

“Now no-one is going there going ‘I want to be a poet’.

“That is why the onus is on natives to live at their parents’ house like we did while making the movie, to make art in San Francisco, this place that once welcomed artists.”

The Last Black Man In San Francisco is out now.

PA Media

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