Kokomo City: The BRWC Review

Kokomo City: The BRWC Review

Kokomo City: The BRWC Review. By Rudie Obias

Documentaries like Streetwise, Born into Brothels, Buying Sex, and others are often a source of true-to-life and harsh realities of people living off-the-radar. A film by director D. Smith sheds light on the underground lives of sex workers in the documentary Kokomo City, which is her directorial debut. It’s short at just 73 minutes, yet it’s an impressive film with a rawness that’s humbling, funny, deeply sad, and eye-opening to the world of trans women and the closeted and not-so-closted Johns who they service.

The documentary follows Daniella Carter and Dominique Silver, two sex workers in New York City, as well as Koko Da Doll and Liyah Mitchell, two other sex workers in Georgia. The format is simple: All four trans women tell stories of being sex workers in their respective cities, while intercut with cheeky re-enactments. The film also has interviews with a few of their Johns, who are comfortable enough to share their stories.



The end result is a documentary that is cleverly edited and briskly paced that respects the humanity of all the subjects involved. The film is free from judgment, while D. Smith navigates and weaves together a revealing portrayal of street life, joys in self-discovery, violence, and tragedy — especially when real-life events creep into watching this film.

A few months after Kokomo City premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah back in January 2023, Koko Da Doll (Rasheeda Williams) was brutally murdered from a gunshot wound at age 35 in Southwest Atlanta. It doesn’t get any more raw than that. Throughout the film the four sex workers talk about being in near-death experiences, while trans people as a whole remain targets. There’s a chilling awareness knowing that one of the subjects’ life was cut short in a grim and cruel way. 

Filmmaker and music producer D. Smith, who is a trans woman herself, expertly ties these stories together with sharp and deep black-and-white photography that’s hyper-aware of her subjects, their backgrounds, and settings. Kokomo City feels fresh and experimental that fits with the tradition of subversive filmmaking, such as Marlon Riggs’ Tongues Untied and Jennie Livingston’s Paris Is Burning — depicting the real joys and drama of marginalized peoples.

Kokomo City offers the Black experience from a Black point-of-view without the prism of White America. The film also offers up unapologetic queerness through the lens of humanity and equality (and equity). But overall, the documentary is real, very funny, and natural. The film feels very comfortable with itself.


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Rudie Obias lives in Brooklyn, New York. He’s a writer and editor who is interested in cinema, pop culture, music, NBA basketball, science fiction, and web culture. His work can be found at IGN, Fandom, TV Guide, Metacritic, Yahoo!, Battleship Pretension, Mashable, Mental Floss, and of course, BRWC.

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