In 2015, the empathetic filmmaker Sean Baker ("The Florida Project") released the unique independent comedy-drama "Tangerine," about the lives of two transgender sex workers. "Tangerine" is a Pride Month movie must see, and one of the best films of the 2010s.
Shot on three iPhone 5S smartphones, this indie film with an original perspective is also an old-fashioned Hollywood dramedy about friendship.
On the surface, it's a street-level tale about LA transgender sex worker Sin-Dee Rella (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez). She's newly released from jail. And her friend and fellow trans sex worker Alexandra (Mya Taylor) tells her that her boyfriend and pimp Chester (James Ransome) has been cheating on her.
For the rest of the film, Sin-Dee tracks down Chester and his other girlfriend, cisgender sex worker Dinah (Mickey O'Hagan). She and Alexandra also run into other colorful characters including Armenian cabdriver Razmik (Karren Karagulian). He's married, but addicted to sex with prostitutes.
Throughout the film, Baker and his performers do an excellent job of humanizing these characters and their various situations. Even if your own life is far removed from this subculture, it's easy to recognize everyone's relatable human traits. By the end, you'll have compassion for these people you've grown to know.
The Pride Month Connections
Baker and longtime co-screenwriter Chris Bergoch strive to keep their film authentic. They shot in real clubs in West Hollywood and locations on Santa Monica Boulevard. And they cast stars Mya Taylor and Kitana Kiki Rodriguez after meeting them at the Los Angeles LGBT Center in 2013. For Rodriguez, it was her very first experience as an actress.
Why You Should See It
"Tangerine" (watch the redband trailer) presents its transgender characters and their world as matter of fact. That's exactly how their story should be approached. These are real people with all of their qualities and foibles intact. With these actors and this story, director Sean Baker creates a funny, dramatic, moving film like no other.
Did You Know
"Tangerine" is the first film endorsed by its producer for an Academy Awards campaign for its transgender actresses. While neither won the Oscar, Mya Taylor won Best Supporting Female at the Indie Spirits.
Chuck is an editor/writer who's worked for NCM, Fandango, Movies.com, MediaTrip, Hollywood.com and Newsweek. His favorite movie is "Jaws." He's definitely a dog guy.