Kokomo City is the revelatory new film flipping the script on stories of Black trans women

Kokomo City still. (Sundance Institute/D Smith)

Award-winning Sundance film Kokomo City has made waves with its candid and humorous look at the lives of four Black trans sex workers.

The directorial debut of Grammy award-winning music producer D Smith, the beautifully immersive black-and-white documentary follows the lives of four Black trans sex workers in New York City and Atlanta, exploring how their identities interact with trans liberation and Black culture.

Packed with no-holds-barred anecdotes that give an unflinching look at the reality of being a Black trans sex worker, the documentary aims to examine the complexity of gender roles and the nature of transness in the Black community.

While Kokomo City doesn’t hold back from addressing the struggles that its interviewees, Koko Da Doll, Liyah Mitchell, Daniella Carter and Dominique Silver, face on a daily basis, it is unapologetically frank and riotously funny, bringing levity to a subject so often associated with trauma.

The project is particularly poignant given that Smith, who is Black and trans, revealed that she “lost everything” after she started to transition, and had to rely on friends and strangers alike at some points to keep her housed.

Kokomo City premieres to rave reviews. (Sundance Institute/D Smith)
Kokomo City premieres to rave reviews. (Sundance Institute/D Smith)

“In real life, trans women are funny,” Smith, who once produced for the likes of Lil Wayne and Katy Perry, told Variety. “And we’re sad, and we’re sexy, and we have body parts that are our body parts. It’s time to embrace that. Enough with the fortresses that are built around us, keeping us from fully joining society.”

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The film, which recently scooped the Innovator and Audience awards at the Sundance Film Festival, has been described as “the funniest movie Sundance has ever known” and praised for the way “the life and death struggle of these women is best understood in their defiant use of humour as a weapon”.

After accepting the prestigious award, Smith addressed the Black community with a heartfelt message.

“This is a moment for us to come together”, she said in her speech, “and move the narrative further and connect and understand one another, please do not let this pass us by. We can create a new trajectory for our future”.

Following the film’s world premiere, Kokomo City has been acquired by Magnolia Pictures.

“’Kokomo City’ is a miraculous cinematic debut by D. Smith,” said Eamonn Bowles, president of Magnolia Pictures.

“Hilarious, revelatory and wildly entertaining, and with a soundtrack for the ages, the film demolishes preconceived notions and announces a major multi-talent to the film world. We can’t wait to bring it to audiences.”

As trans lives across America continue to be targeted by anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and legalisation, stories like this have never been more important.

Kokomo City will next screen at the Berlin Film Festival before general theatrical release later this year.

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