Kokomo City offers unprecedented access to the world of society’s most vulnerable sex workers: black trans women.
A black trans sex worker recounts, with a smirk, a mishap involving a client and a gun… to upbeat music. The tone is set ! The first documentary by director D. Smith, herself a black trans woman, oscillates between moving testimonies, jokes and punchy remarks. It was awarded the Audience Award at the Berlinale in the Documentary Panorama section and the NEXT Audience Award at Sundance in 2023.
Shot in black and white in an aesthetic that is both glamorous and raw, the film, never miserable, illustrates the affection that the designer has for her subject and her desire to show reality stark naked. From the first images, we feel the trust that the director has established with the women who testify with their faces and bodies uncovered. They talk about why they got into sex work, their transition, their surgeries, and their clients from all walks of life: father, rapper, boxer, and more. We also see cisgender men explaining their attraction to trans women.
Beyond sex work, we discover the daily life of trans women. We reflect on the dilemma experienced by those who hesitate to present themselves to the world as cisgender women or to assume their trans identity, knowing that they will be treated in a completely different way. We explore the uneasiness men have in assuming their interest in them, as if it calls into question their masculinity, their virility or their sexual orientation. And we discuss the many dangers that await black trans women. The proof: one of the four testifying, Koko Da Doll, was killed last April.
Kokomo City is a necessary, surprising and illuminating documentary that is wrapped in eloquent musical references, such as Street Life and Sissy Man Blues. No wonder, when you consider that the director worked as a songwriter with superstars like Katy Perry and Lil Wayne, earning two Grammy nominations, before being shunned by the industry when she embarked on her gender transition. Ruined and homeless, she carried this project at arm’s length for three years.
Kokomo City is presented in its original English version at Cinéma du Parc and Cinéma Le Clap Ste-Foy.