As many flocked to see the Tangerine premiere at Sundance Festival in 2015, most were unaware that the entire film was shot with an iPhone 5s. However, if you search the internet for the film now, it is a feature which the film is most recognized for, alongside its portrayal of two fearless trans women named, Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) and Alexandra (Mya Taylor) surviving on the streets of Los Angeles.
Though the use of an iPhone was friendly for the low budget Sean Baker had instore for this film, it instantly added a sense of authenticity and rawness to the storyline. As we are so accustomed to seeing the world through our iPhones, it felt as if Baker was simply documenting the everyday lives of two trans women.
This idea of a documentary is only emphasised in the first scene where Sin-Dee and Alexandra share a donut. Both actresses seem uncomfortable, as if they were fully aware that someone had begun to film them. As we all know, people behave differently in front of cameras and, unknown if intentional; there was a sense of this in the opening scene. Naturally, as drama ensues and their minds wonder away from the camera, you see them react in a way that they would, had the cameraman not been there. This graduation from contrived to spontaneous adds to the idea that this film is an accurate view into a different world, one that does not seem scripted.
Most notably, all the trans women characters in this film are played by real trans women, a feature which disappointingly lacks from several Hollywood films. Baker acknowledges that the experience Rodriguez and Taylor offer to the film is unquestionably valuable. In an interview for AOL Build, Taylor speaks of advising Baker to “make it funny,” justifying that although the challenges many transgender bodies face are difficult, humour is unquestionably an emotion that lives in every society.
To conclude (and repeat for the last time), Tangerine is real. There are so many reasons to justify that statement. It’s just real. And it can’t really get any better than that.
director SEAN BAKER
director of photography RADIUM CHEUNG
cast KITANA KIKI RODRIGUEZ, MYA TAYLOR, KARREN KARAGULIAN, MICKEY O'HAGAN and ALLA TUMANIAN
words PRIYESH PATEL
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