The movie

Kokomo City

A raw depiction of the lives of four black trans sex workers as they confront the dichotomy between the black community and themselves.

Length: 73 min
Country: United States
Language spoken: English
Language subtitles: Dutch
Cast: Daniella Carter (Zichzelf), Koko Da Doll (Zichzelf), Liyah Mitchell (Zichzelf)
Director: D. Smith
Release date: 2023

Description

The big winner of Sundance's NEXT section, this unforgettable format-defying film tackles issues of safety, sexual identity and desire from the perspective of several trans women who’ve seen it all.

Kokomo City is not a real place. It’s more like a state of mind, invented by director D. Smith, who is Black and trans, to describe the space that her sisters occupy in the world. Theirs is an identity that is barely understood by the public and frequently misrepresented by the media, but is here defined by a handful of tell-it-like-it-is trans sex workers who offer snappy, whip-smart insights into their lives, dreams and the down-low dudes who adore them. In Smith’s short, salty micro-budget doc, the t-girls spill the tea, totally reframing the conversation.

A singer-songwriter who produced for the likes of Lil Wayne and Katy Perry, only to see her livelihood dry up when she transitioned, Smith still thinks in terms of music. During the course of shooting this film, the self-taught director stumbled across a nearly 90-year-old recording called “Sissy Man Blues” from all-but-forgotten Black crooner Kokomo Arnold. His name inspired her title, “Kokomo City,” which — along with the film’s more quotable lines — feels poised to enter the lexicon the way so much of “Paris Is Burning” has done.

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