I am a woman of simple tastes. My favorite place to get a Rainbow Sprinkled Donut, which is the only appropriate accompaniment to this film, is Dunkin Donuts. As a New Yorker, they are on every block. But I also recommend – if you haven’t tried it – the Cronut. Invented by chef, Dominique Ansel,
LGTBQ Series #5:
“Tangerine” (2015) directed by Sean Baker (most known for “The Florida Project” which came out two years later) both of which were entirely shot on an iPhone camera with an Anamorphic widescreen attachment, and the colors are super-saturated to the point where it almost feels like Technicolor. It almost felt akin to homemade skateboarding videos set in the early 2000’s. In this comedy about a transgender woman who races around town trying to find her cheating pimp’s new girlfriend on Christmas Eve, we primarily follow Sin-Dee Rella (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) and her best friend Alexandra (Mya Taylor). Six weeks after getting out of prison, Sin-Dee discovers that the man she loves is not only touting a new girl around town, but a white cisgender female, of all things.
Through hilarious and lively dialogue, we establish the baseline for the story in the first scene over Christmas Eve donuts between the two leads, and then we are off. The score is flawless, warping the mood by shifting from up-beat electronic to classical and back again. Baker also plays with lighting and camera angles in a way that just works, with the help of cinematographer Radium Cheng.
Employing real life trans women from the Los Angeles community, viewers are treated to a ride-along through the day in the life in the streets of the big city. We also follow closely with Razmik (Karren Karagulian), an Armenian cabdriver who is married and has a child but frequents transgender prostitutes on the side.
Baker has a unique way of establishing characters and dynamics that might not reflect the status quo, without ever through a mocking gaze. In one scene, Razmik picks up a woman who he assumes is like the others, but when he goes down on her and discovers she has a vagina, he angrily boots her from his car. This scene reflects so much about the world of these characters. Sean Baker understands that there is a world of norms that are accepted in this community that most mainstream audiences are not used to accepting, and he tells these stories with such humanity and tenderness, so it is impossible to watch from a place of judgment. Baker does not insert himself. He doesn’t provide commentary and his opinions do not make their way into focus. He is observational. This is the story of these characters, and these are the facts.
Shih-Ching Tsou should be given acknowledgment for piecing together true-to-life functional, yet suggestive outfits that are grounded in specificity. And another acknowledgment for the solemn and moving singing performance by Alexandra – the show she spent the day inviting passerby’s to see. Though, there are some explosive and comical moments, with performances from James Ransome as Chester and Mickey O’Hagan as Dinah, the core of the film is founded on friendship. No matter what Sin-Dee and Alexandra might face throughout the day, it is undoubtedly better to face it together than apart. The film quietly reflects the day to day obstacles that trans people are forced to endure in order to live authentically. Due to discriminatory job market, most live as sex workers, where they are forced to hustle, fend for themselves, work with unpredictable clientele and risk imprisonment merely to make a living. Many are met with intolerant attacks, verbal or physical. Low income, no protections. But yet, the spirit of this film highlights the vibrant human beings behind these statistics and the kinship that these women feel when looking out for one another. It’s a fantastic film and a must see.
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