With humor and humanity, Tangerine vividly captures a world unknown to most audiences.
"PARK CITY, UTAH — Too often, the focus at the annual Sundance Film Festival is on stars we already know telling stories we’ve already heard, usually involving white upper-middle-class ennui. But Tangerine, which made its debut at the fest this weekend, is none of those things.
It takes almost no time at all for the movie to announce itself as one of the most vital films at Sundance this year. It opens on transgender prostitutes Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) and Alexandra (Mya Taylor) splitting a doughnut at Donut Time, a real shop in Los Angeles, on Christmas Eve. Sin-Dee just got out of a 28-day stint in jail, and she is anxious to tell her best friend news about her boyfriend Chester (James Ransone), who also happens to be their pimp.
With a cast of trans actors playing trans characters — still all too rare in feature filmmaking — Tangerine brings a world unknown to most audiences to radiant life with humor and humanity. Director Sean Baker (Starlet) and his co-writer Chris Bergoch treat the fact that Sin-Dee and Alexandra are trans prostitutes as just that — a fact, not a gimmick or a “theme” that needs hand-holding explanation.
If you’ve heard anything about Tangerine, it’s probably that Baker shot the film entirely on the iPhone 5s. That may seem like a marketing gimmick, but Baker chose exactly the right technology to capture this particular story, giving it an immediacy and intimacy that I’m not sure he would have been able to achieve with a more sophisticated camera. Besides, the film looks fabulous. I’ve lived in Los Angeles for more than 12 years, and yet Baker is able to capture this particular section of the city with a gritty beauty I’ve never seen before.”
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