Streaming: Exploring History and Memory, Race and Place
San Francisco is a world in transformation, and Jimmie Fails, first-time actor and cowriter of The Last Black Man in San Francisco, bears witness to it all in this semiautobiographical feature. His fictionalized self, San Francisco native Jimmie Fails, dreams of restoring his family's ancestral Victorian home. The problem: his family no longer owns the house, and he can't afford to buy it back due to the neighborhood's skyrocketing prices.
Tracking a seamless flow of movement — by foot, bus, skateboard — debut director Joe Talbot lays bare the connections in a vast urban tableau, from the gentrifying core to the forgotten outskirts of the city's neglected marine-industrial past. Side by side on the streets and on screen, we encounter vacant lots, gut rehabs, and high-rise lofts; homeless migrants and hipster brunches; voyeuristic tourists and eccentric urban cranks.
The film embraces the contradictions inherent in our attachments to neighborhood, to community, to personal histories and shared places, to the daily irrationality of urban life. As Fails explains to a fellow commuter complaining about the city, "You don't get to hate it unless you love it." In every scene, we experience the pain of Fails doing both simultaneously.
Through a perceptive urban vision and beautifully balanced script, the film succeeds in exploring the real, raw, and deeply human themes of history and memory, love and loss, race and place, the perpetual clash between dreams and reality. There's plenty of humor and quirkiness, too — and just enough magical realism to expand our conception of what might be possible.
Ezra Haber Glenn, AICP, is Planning's regular film reviewer. He teaches at MIT's Department of Urban Studies & Planning and writes on cities and film at urbanfilm.org.
Research: Water, Water Everywhere
Few places are immune to flooding — and communities are facing escalating threats.
Framing the Challenge of Urban Flooding in the United States offers new approaches, including flood maps, better interagency coordination, and customized plans.
Ocean at the Door uses Zillow data to reveal that coastal states are siting more residential development in risk zones. An interactive map and a sea-level rise tool offers the new data by location.
Jim Sweeney writes about architecture, art, design, and science from Rockville, Maryland.
Planners Playlist: Mastering the Craft
In the new podcast POV–Planning & Organizational Visioning, host James Rausse, AICP, the director of planning and development in the office of the Bronx borough president, digs into holistic, sustainable planning with the people getting it done.