Most fledgling filmmakers harbour a dream to touch down at a major international festival cradling their debut feature and walk away almost two weeks later with an award or two tucked under their arm. Awards have always been, and will surely always be, an enabler; the monkey wrench with which to prise open the doors of opportunity for a burgeoning career.
Joe Talbort is a writer/director in the ascent. His first feature, The Last Black Man in San Francisco, debuted at Sundance in January and was subjected to the sort of word-of-mouth buzz that is utterly priceless. Let’s be upfront about this: the film is waiting on a UK release date. Even so, we wanted to wax lyrically as to why it should remain as much on your radar as it is on ours.
Okay, okay. Enough hyperbole! What is it about?
Jimmie Fails – the titular black man in San Fran – dreams of reclaiming the Victorian home his grandfather built in the heart of the city. Joined by his best friend Mont, Fails searches for belonging in a rapidly changing city that seems to have left them both behind. As he struggles to reconnect with his family and reconstruct the community he longs for, his hopes blind him to the reality of his situation.
Oh right. You were talking about awards earlier. Did this win one then?
It did. Not just one, but two. The Sundance juries bestowed it with the US Dramatic Special Jury Award for Creative Collaboration and the US Dramatic Directing award – the latter of which was presented to The Kindergarten Teacher last year.
That’s a lot of praise. Why are you so excited by it though?
Well, this is a film of substance, speaking as it does about social issues in a very direct manner. The press release boasts that it’s ‘a wistful odyssey’ and one ‘populated by skaters, squatters, street preachers, playwrights, and other locals on the margins… a poignant and sweeping story of hometowns and how they’re made—and kept alive—by the people who love them’. Surely that says enough?
But it is about San Fran. I doubt this will have any resonance or speak to me over this side of the pond.
Come on now. We both know that the fabric of a community is stitched together by its inhabitants and it is often undone by dispassionate investors and gentrification. This is an increasing problem in the developed world. In fact, there is argument to say that San Fran is a city that is emblematic of tectonic fissures taking place the world over as capitalism forges ahead with its cold marching boots. This is one of the reasons why so many have been moved by this film.
They’ve been moved?
Hell yes! Look online! Many have spouted about how much this film has stayed with them and affected them long after the screen turned to black.
Gee-whizz. I’m on board. You said that it hasn’t yet secured a release date?
I know, I know, I know. This is true. For those around the English capital, Sundance London touches down and sets up shop on 30th May and running through to 2nd June 2019. Surely this will come in tow. Irrespective of that aspect, there is surely no doubt that The Last Black Man in San Francisco will get a UK release in the (hopefully!) not-too-distant-future. Keep your eyes peeled and remember that you heard it here first.
In the meantime, check out the trailer and have that appetite whetted: