‘The Last Black Man in San Francisco’ makes emotional hometown premiere at Castro Theatre

Actor Jimmie Fails and writer-director Joe Talbot smile for photos under the marquee at the San Francisco premiere of “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” at the Castro Theater on Wednesday, May 29, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
People line up along the sidewalk for the San Francisco premiere of “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” at the Castro Theater on Wednesday, May 29, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Writer-director Joe Talbot signs an autograph for Hao Le at the San Francisco premiere of “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” at the Castro Theater on Wednesday, May 29, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Writer-director Joe Talbot smiles after signing an autograph for Hao Le at the San Francisco premiere of “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” at the Castro Theater on Wednesday, May 29, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Actor Jimmie Fails, left, is greeted by writer-director Joe Talbot as he arrives at the San Francisco premiere of “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” at the Castro Theater on Wednesday, May 29, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Actor and Sunnydale native Jamal Trulove greets writer-director Joe Talbot as he arrives at the San Francisco premiere of “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” at the Castro Theater on Wednesday, May 29, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Actor and Sunnydale native Jamal Trulove smiles as he embraces writer-director Joe Talbot as he arrives at the San Francisco premiere of “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” at the Castro Theater on Wednesday, May 29, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Actor and Sunnydale native Jamal Trulove smiles as he arrives at the San Francisco premiere of “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” at the Castro Theater on Wednesday, May 29, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Actor and Sunnydale native Jamal Trulove, center, smiles for photos with members of his family at the San Francisco premiere of “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” at the Castro Theater on Wednesday, May 29, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Writer-director Joe Talbot smiles while speaking with reporters on the red carpet at the San Francisco premiere of “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” at the Castro Theater on Wednesday, May 29, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
People mix and mingle under the marquee at the San Francisco premiere of “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” at the Castro Theater on Wednesday, May 29, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Actor and Sunnydale native Jamal Trulove smiles on the red carpet at the San Francisco premiere of “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” at the Castro Theater on Wednesday, May 29, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Actor and SF native Danny Glover arrives at the San Francisco premiere of “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” at the Castro Theater on Wednesday, May 29, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Writer-director Joe Talbot and actor Danny Glover share a laugh at the San Francisco premiere of “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” at the Castro Theater on Wednesday, May 29, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Writer-director Joe Talbot and actor Danny Glover smile for photos under the marquee at the San Francisco premiere of “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” at the Castro Theater on Wednesday, May 29, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Actor Jimmie Fails, writer-director Joe Talbot and actor Danny Glover smile for photos under the marquee at the San Francisco premiere of “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” at the Castro Theater on Wednesday, May 29, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Actress Tichina Arnold embraces actor Jimmie Fails as she arrives at the San Francisco premiere of “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” at the Castro Theater on Wednesday, May 29, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Actress Tichina Arnold smiles as she arrives at the San Francisco premiere of “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” at the Castro Theater on Wednesday, May 29, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Supervisors Matt Haney, Shamann Walton and Rafael Mandelman smile as they arrive at the San Francisco premiere of “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” at the Castro Theater on Wednesday, May 29, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

The Last Black Man in San Francisco, a movie that is fundamentally about searching for a home in a city that seems to have no place for you, premiered in its hometown Wednesday night to a packed and enthusiastic audience.

For Director Joe Talbot, who grew up near San Francisco’s Precita Park, the event at the iconic Castro Theatre was also a kind of emotional and personal homecoming.

“For me this place is family,” Talbot said. “This is where my parents took me to see the Godfather when I was 13 as a rite of passage.”

The movie, created with Talbot’s longtime friend, actor Jimmie Fails and starring local talent including actor Danny Glover, tells the story of a young black man who cannot let go of the dream of returning to a beautiful home his family once owned in the City’s Fillmore District or the myth he has built up around. It is a tale of displacement and the struggle for the black community to maintain its roots.

In introducing the film, Talbot noted that it has never been easy to be a black homeowner in San Francisco, where even Willie Mays was turned down when he tried to buy a house and many black residents were “swept away” by redevelopment in the Fillmore District. More recently, Talbot cited examples like Iris Canada, the 100-year-old woman who died shortly after losing her longtime Western Addition apartment in a legal fight with her landlords.

“We are losing some of the people who make this city so fucking great,” Talbot said.

That anguished mixture of love and loss is voiced most clearly in the movie by Fails, who hears a recent transplant complaining on the bus about San Francisco and offers her what might be the only correct response to every article written by national publications about The City’s many failings: “You’re not allowed to hate San Francisco… You don’t get to hate it unless you love it.”

Talbot’s introduction, and the movie, met with a rapturous reception from the audience, which drew notable local figures including Barry Bonds, activist and rapper Equipto, various city officials including Supervisors Shamann Walton and Matt Haney, and Rudy Corpuz Jr. from United Playas. Mayor London Breed was invited and candidates for office including Dean Preston and Public Defender Chesa Boudin were also spotted in attendance.

While deeply emotional at its core, the movie itself is also deeply funny and includes many inside jokes and references for locals. It touches on topics including Gavin Newsom, local schools (the realtor from St. Ignatius drew a hearty boo), burned out apartment buildings, the late Mayor Ed Lee and even includes a sly nod to one of former Supervisor Scott Wiener’s most notorious pieces of local legislation (but we’re not going to spoil it for you).

Visually, it offers a gorgeous, heartbreaking tour of The City that tourists on Segways (guided by Jello Biafra, no less) never see.

For Fails, the experience of seeing the crowd packing the Castro to watch the movie was “unexplainable.

“It’s so beautiful to see everyone coming out to support and in such good spirits and bringing love and support,” he said. “I just hope we made them proud with the movie.”

The Last Black Man in San Francisco will hold a second event in Oakland tonight at the Grand Lake Theater, and opens nationwide on June 6.

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez, Laura Waxmann and Sara Gaiser contributed to this report.

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