I think as you grow up the sense of pride in the place you grew up grows and the insincere changes that plague it become the face of an overwhelming force. It becomes an obvious motivation to talk about your values and possessions, and to publicize your position in history. I felt this at home and how important my childhood was in building my character. It made it difficult to leave the house and see the world of obscurity. I think this is something that everyone may have felt in adulthood, but especially this generation.
Globalization, the rapid rise in technology and the fear of the actual apocalypse lead to an almost social “growing up”. We all face a lot of change and we all feel the need to say something, but most of our voices are drowned out by the others. The struggle for comfort in such a chaotic world is probably the impossible and the most tragic thing we have to face.
Voice of a generation
Because of this, I think “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” can be seen as the voice of our generation. It is a voice that describes all of our desperate cries for solace in one amazing masterpiece. This story is about (spoilers) an almost homeless black man in San Francisco who holds onto a beautiful and wealthy Victorian house that he believes his grandfather was built entirely by himself. He eventually finds out that it doesn't and that it really is just another house and a lie told him by his proud father, who has not yet admitted the unfortunate course of history.
This story is specifically about race gentrification in San Francisco, which I can't comment on, but on a larger scale, it's a big thing in our world that I think everyone can relate to. These vast, unimaginable forces, which could just as easily be viewed as gods, such as the infinite growth of business, social media, abuse of the environment and political struggles, assume any understanding of the extent of our lives and the meaning of our individuality versus community life. Who are we when we are not home and what happens when it is taken away from us?
The main character in the film is called Jimmie Fails, and he appears as a revolutionary, like many of us, or at least feel like we do in our first few years of adulthood. Just before the end of the film, while Jimmie is walking home right after losing all hope, he passes people walking in the opposite direction. However, instead of being stuck in the heartbreaking truth like him and his father, they all wanted to work or talk about ideas and the world. They were part of it and did not fight this inevitable wave of change. He had a choice between continuing to hope that the past meant something or looking ahead and indulging in hope of the future. Now this is just becoming a simple idea to move with the times or get sucked in by time and I think looking at these choices the productive answer seems simple.
There seems to be a third option though, as he doesn't do any of these things at the end of the movie. Instead, the last we see of him is on an old rowboat aimlessly pushing against the waves of San Francisco Bay. This option is an option that, in my opinion, our society does not give enough credit to. Again it is a story so often told about an artist who refuses to sacrifice his story for the "greater good" but who also refuses to be stuck in a state of proud elitism for which there is nothing to show gives. It's a really nice idea. We all feel like we miss our home and there is one thing that should not be ignored. Maybe we shouldn't accept that our voices won't be heard, and maybe we should combine that passion with action.
The way society sets down our personal ambitions; The constant giggles at "crazy" ideas, the overwhelming pressure to be career-oriented and having to face this harsh truth every day in an unimaginably large city that changes from minute to minute keep this feeling like a dream. I believe that everyone should have a much greater appreciation for this dream because growing up does not mean accepting the worldly world that we all belong to, but rather growing. To grow beyond the minimum standards that society rewards us for rather than forcing us to be bigger than them. Perhaps nothing can change by accepting the inevitable but pressing against the indecisive. Dedicate your life to the honest message heard from an ever-changing world of lost stories.
This is what came from Jimmie who left San Francisco, and that comes from anyone who chooses to fight for the honest and innocent feeling of missing their home. The film successfully shows so well that there is only one way to live an honest life, but beyond that, it inspires everyone who sees the film to do the same.
About Alex Renaud
Alex Renaud is a Raindance member, Raindance intern, writer and director from Ottawa. He currently lives in Toronto and is studying film at Sheridan College's Bachelor of Film and Television.