The Last Black Man in San Francisco - The Voice of a Generation - Raindance

I think as you grow up, there’s a growing feeling of pride in the place that you were raised and the disingenuous changes that plagues it becomes the face of an overwhelming force. It becomes an apparent motivation to try to speak out about your values and your possessions, to make your position in history known. I felt this with my home and how important my childhood became in the building of my character. It made leaving home, and seeing the world of unfamiliarity a hard pill to swallow. I think this is something maybe everyone has felt going into adulthood but especially in this generation.

Globalisation, the rapid increase in technology and the fear of the actual apocalypse is causing an almost societal ‘coming of age’. We are all being faced with a mass amount of change, and we all feel the need to say something but most of our voices get drowned out by the rest of them. The fight for comfort in such a chaotic world is probably the most impossible and tragic thing we have to face. 

Voice of a Generation

This is why I think that “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” could be considered the voice of our generation. It is a voice that describes all of our desperate cries for comfort in one amazing masterpiece. This story is about (spoilers) a near-homeless black man in San Francisco holding on to a beautiful and rich Victorian house that he believes his grandfather built entirely by himself. He eventually finds out that this isn’t the case and that it’s really just another house and a lie told to him by his prideful father who has yet to admit the unfortunate passing of history.

This story is specifically about racial gentrification in San Francisco, which I can’t comment on, but on a larger scale it’s talking about a huge thing happening in our world right now that I think anyone can relate to. These huge, inconceivable forces that might as well be considered Gods, like the never ending growth of corporations, social media, abuse of the environment, and political battles are taking over any sense of understanding of the scale of our lives and the importance of our individuality versus community. Who are we if we aren’t our homes and what happens when that’s taken away from us? 

Jimmie Fails’ Revoultion

The main character in the film is named Jimmie Fails, and he acts as a revolutionist, as many of us do, or at least feel we do within our first years of adulthood. Close to the end of the movie while Jimmie is walking back home right after he seems to have lost all hope, he passes by people who are going in the opposite direction. However, instead of being stuck in the heartbreaking truth like him and his father were, they were all going to work, or talking about ideas and the world. They were a part of it, not fighting that inevitable wave of change. He had a choice, to keep hoping for the past to mean something, or to look ahead and indulge in the hopefulness of the future. Now this becomes just a simple idea of moving with the times or being sucked up by the times and I think looking at these choices, the productive answer seems simple.

However, there appears to be a third option, because at the end of the movie he doesn’t do either of these things. Instead the last we see of him is on an old row boat, pushing aimlessly against the waves of the San Francisco bay. This option is an option that I don’t believe our society gives enough credit to. Again, it’s a story that’s been told so many times about an artist who refuses to sacrifice their history for the “greater good”, but who also refuses to be stuck in a state of prideful elitism with nothing to show for it. It’s truly a beautiful idea. We all have this feeling of missing our homes and there’s something there that shouldn’t be ignored. Maybe we shouldn’t accept that our voices aren’t being heard and maybe we should match that passion with action.

The way that society is made to put down our personal ambitions; the constant chuckles at “insane” ideas, the overwhelming pressures to be career oriented, and just having to face that harsh truth everyday in an unimaginably large city that changes by the minute, all keep that feeling down as just a dream. I believe that everyone should have a much larger appreciation for that dream because coming of age doesn’t mean accepting of the mundane world we all are a part of, but it means to grow. To grow past the bare minimum expectations that society rewards us for instead of pushing us to be greater than it. Maybe the only way that anything can change, is by accepting the inevitable but by pushing against the undecided. Dedicating your life to having your honest message heard by an ever changing world of lost histories. 

This is what came from Jimmie leaving San Francisco, and this is what comes from anyone who decides to fight for that honest and innocent feeling of missing home. The movie successfully shows so well that there is only one way to live an honest life but more than that, it gives inspiration for anyone who watches the movie to do the same.



Alex Renaud is a Raindance member, Raindance intern, writer and director from Ottawa. Based in Toronto, he is currently studying film at Sheridan College’s Bachelor of Film and Television program.