Kokomo City, directed by D. Smith (Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood, Cab Driver), made its much-anticipated world premiere at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival in the U.S. Documentary Competition. The film quickly garnered attention and acclaim, winning the prestigious Sundance Film Festival NEXT Innovator Award and NEXT Audience Award, including the Audience Award in the Panorama Documentary section at the 2023 Berlinale. Set in the vibrant cities of Atlanta and New York, this refreshingly unfiltered documentary takes viewers on an electrifying journey into the lives of four Black transgender sex workers, Daniella Carter, Koko Da Doll, Liyah Mitchell, and Dominique Silver, who courageously break down the walls of their profession and share their hard-earned wisdom.
In her feature directorial debut, D. Smith delivers a vital and visually striking portrait, capturing the essence of her subjects in bold black and white. As a two-time Grammy-nominated producer, singer, and songwriter, Smith brings a unique perspective to the documentary, having made history as the first trans woman cast on a primetime unscripted TV show. With executive producer Lena Waithe on board, Kokomo City dives deep into a raw and gritty world laced with absolute truth and reality.
Through intimate interviews, Kokomo City offers viewers an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ perspective, providing an exquisitely rare glimpse into the lives and livelihoods of these confident and gorgeous Black trans women. D. Smith’s directive to interviewing style balances respectful discretion with an unyielding consented desire to shed light on this beautiful yet misunderstood community. Each woman possesses a powerful personality that is instantly likable however, their wall of immediate defensive protection is comparable to wild tigers and snakes in the wild. Smith’s documentary reveals a “fuck around and find out” world of ultimate survival, where societal acceptance is scarce, and burdens are unfairly placed on their shoulders.
Kokomo City is an exquisite portrayal that addresses layered issues and challenges faced by Black transgender sex workers. The documentary presents an unbalanced and hypocritical society that ignores their struggle and takes advantage of their secrecy. Despite these hardships, the film is a compelling watch, featuring stunning visuals that complement the monologues of each woman (and other fantastic individuals interviewed) as they share their stories. The fantastic soundtrack adds an artistic element of calming fluidity to an otherwise compromising and somber exploration of their lives.
Kokomo City is a must-watch documentary that leaves a lasting impact on its audience. With its world-class direction by D. Smith and powerful storytelling, the film paints an honest and unapologetic picture of the lives of Black transgender sex workers. It celebrates their strength, resilience, and unyielding spirit, shedding light on the challenges faced while rightfully demanding justice and acceptance. Kokomo City has deservedly earned its accolades and recognition at prestigious film festivals, and it stands as a poignant and compelling work of art that will resonate with audiences for years to come.
Kokomo City is in theaters now.