When critics write about authentic storytelling, they are talking about films like “Kokomo City.” Shot, edited, produced, and directed by visionary new voice D. Smith, this artful and spirited documentary is a rare unvarnished portrait of four lively and charming Black trans women. Shot in black and white from a friendly and intimate perspective, the women candidly share their musings on sex work, community, and dating as a trans woman.
The refreshing film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, where it nabbed a few awards and rave reviews — including an IndieWire Critics’ Pick. Magnolia Pictures will release the film in select theaters on July 28, where it’s sure to surprise and delight audiences thirsty for original material. IndieWire is proud to debut the trailer exclusively.
Per distributor Magnolia, “Kokomo City” is the feature directorial debut of two-time Grammy-nominated producer, singer and songwriter D. Smith. Smith also filmed and edited this wildly entertaining and refreshingly unfiltered documentary that passes the mic to four Black transgender sex workers in Atlanta and New York City — Daniella Carter, Koko Da Doll, Liyah Mitchell and Dominique Silver — as they hold nothing back while breaking down the walls of their profession. Executive produced by Lena Waithe, the film won the Sundance Film Festival NEXT Innovator Award and the NEXT Audience Award, as well as the Berlinale’s Audience Award in the Panorama Documentary section.
A successful musician and songwriter, filmmaker D. Smith makes a confident pivot to filmmaking in an impressive act of vulnerability. As a trans woman, she is able to approach her subjects from the equal footing of shared experience, using her camera as a vessel for them to speak their truth. Throughout the film, the women engage in the kind of vulnerable and honest conversations that usually only occur behind closed doors. In drawing back the curtain on her community, Smith invites the viewer to fully immerse themselves and empathize with the experience of being a Black trans woman in America.
While the women of “Kokomo City” are often hilarious and refreshing, their stories are also filled with heartbreak, racism, transphobia, and violence. The film experienced a tragic loss earlier this year when one of the film’s subjects, Rasheeda Williams, also known as Koko Da Doll, was murdered in Atlanta.
“I created ‘Kokomo City’ because I wanted to show the fun, humanized, natural side of Black trans women,” Smith said in a statement at the time. “I wanted to create images that didn’t show the trauma or the statistics of murder of Transgender lives. I wanted to create something fresh and inspiring. I did that. We did that! But here we are again.”
Magnolia Pictures will release “Kokomo City” in theaters on July 28, 2023.