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  • Writer's pictureBen Turner

Kokomo City ****

Director: D. Smith

Country: USA

Following a successful career in the music industry, first-time director D. Smith found herself penniless and living on the streets. Wondering what life would be like if she turned to sex-work to pay her bills, Kokomo City was conceived, in which she follows four black trans sex-workers in Georgia and New York. Essentially a talking-heads piece, her choice of subjects carries this documentary, as all four are brassy, opinionated and fizzingly intelligent.

Shot in high contrast black and white, their monologues to camera are interspersed with interviews with clients, boyfriends and their ruminations on the black trans experience. The film is actually quite experimental, peppered with arrestingly frivolous visuals and some of the best sound editing you’ll hear in a documentary. The result is an effervescent celebration of these four women, whose existence is decidedly not defined by their work.

While all four are fascinating characters, Daniella totally stands out as a wise and outspoken muse. Much of her screen-time sees her orating to camera her theories about life, love, philosophy, race, gender, sexuality, sex… and anything else that pops into her head. She has a lot to say and all of it is articulated with real passion and humanity. By the end of the film, it feels like this movie is the visual representation of Daniella’s political manifesto.

Sparkling with wit, wisdom and joy, this unconventional portrait gives a charming face with a frank voice to black trans sex workers. A compelling debut from a director with clear vision, this intimate and funny documentary is a quotable, memeable, memorable slice of American Queerama.

UK Release: 4th August 2023 in cinemas, released by Dogwoof


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