By: Kyrie Sismaet By: Kyrie Sismaet | February 20, 2023 | People Politics City Life Culture Travel Art Awards Women of Influence Latest Television Movies Entertainment Local Community List - Entertainment Apple News
The diverse and scenic landscape of San Francisco lends itself to easily becoming a glorious setting for many iconic films. With the city's rich history and fertile ground for pivotal creativity and empowering movements, a plethora of impactful media set in the Bay Area have propelled to now become unequivocal cultural touchstones, with many of them being the achievements of Black creators and performers.
For Black History Month and beyond, here are famous and significant films and shows set in the SF Bay Area that not only diversely showcase and platform the lifestyles and communities here, but are also wholeheartedly made by true local superstars.
Set in Oakland, longtime friends Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal both co-wrote and star in Blindspotting, a comedy-drama that follows up the film of the same name that focuses on life in the city through a vibrant and compelling narrative. This is a stellar symphonic success that tackles many ongoing issues as well as features local musicians and actors like E-40, P-Lo, Too $hort, and more!
Oakland native Ryan Coogler's breakthrough film Fruitvale Station was an award-winning masterpiece that also delivered a gripping performance from Michael B. Jordan as real-life Oscar Grant. Focusing on Grant's final days around the Bay Area on New Year's Eve, commutes on BART are shown as well as passionate performances from Octavia Spencer and Chad Michael Murray in this must-watch, decade-defining film.
Another Oakland legend, Boots Riley brings absurdist surrealism with dark comedy to the East Bay with a hilarious Lakeith Stanfield and stunning Tessa Thompson as a couple who get enthralled by a seemingly lucrative telemarketing company. When Lakeith's character begins adopting a "white voice," per co-worker Danny Glover's advice, his sales skyrocket, though the rest of the unpredictable film brings endless twists and inventive concepts, all with beautiful shots of the Bay.
Co-written and starring San Francisco local Jimmie Fails, this captivating drama with Jonathan Majors follows two friends as they navigate adulthood in the city, with Jimmie determined to keep his family home built by his grandfather in Bayview–Hunters Point from being sold. This is a beautifully evocative and award-winning love letter to San Francisco's past and changing present, with natural performances that truly evoke Jimmie's personal perspectives and reverence.
With Ryan Coogler, you know his hometown of Oakland is going to be its own character in his movies, even in the MCU! Black Panther stars the late Chadwick Boseman as the titular superhero along with Michael B. Jordan as his rival, fighting in Wakanda, though the film extends way past simply being a superhero movie. Black and Pan-African culture are front and center with Coogler's magical vision, as well as authentic shoutouts to Oakland and a powerful cast of Letitia Wright, Daniel Kaluuya, Danai Gurira, Lupita Nyong’o, Angela Bassett and more all delivering electrifying acts in this fun family film.
Woke is a comedy series that stars Lamorne Morris as Keef Knight, a black cartoonist who experiences racial injustice and thus works towards being properly "woke" around the Bay Area. Along with friends Gunther (Blake Anderson), Clovis (T. Murph), and Ayana (Sasheer Zamata), the individuals handle different social scenarios and microagressions though insightful discussions and enlightening humor, all with fun animations like J.B. Smoove lending his inimitable voice to Keef's marker.
Angela Bassett delivers a rich performance as down-on-her-luck Stella, who then meets Winston (Taye Diggs) while on vacation with friend Delilah (Whoopi Goldberg). When Stella returns to the Bay Area, a classic romantic comedy situation develops that will have you enthralled not only by the scenery, but also with Stella and Winston's romantic fate.
The Pursuit of Happyness details the true story of Chris Gardner, played by a breathtaking Will Smith, a salesman who became homeless in the 80s and perseveres through hardships all while with his young son, played by real son Jaden Christopher Syre Smith. This is a moving tale of resilience, strength, and determination that is based on Chris Gardner's memoir, showcasing scenes of a classic San Francisco, BART, and more. Definitely bring some tissues when you watch this one.
Black excellence is at the forefront of all of these trailblazing films, from the screenwriting to the fiercely talented performances, proudly uplifting the beauty and authenticity of Oakland, San Francisco, and their community voices.
Photography by: Courtesy of Grace Maina/Getty Images