Kokomo City
Photograph: Dogwoof
  • Film
  • Recommended


Kokomo City

4 out of 5 stars

A portrait of transness, sex work and Black excellence that defies categorisation, this doc is the future of LGBTQ+ cinema

Cyrus Cohen

Time Out says

In the opening minutes of D. Smith’s directorial debut Kokomo City, a trans sex worker called Liyah Mitchell recounts a story that is as harrowing as it is hilarious and heartfelt, it’s clear that this is going to be a different kind of trans documentary. In candid conversations across Atlanta and New York City, Smith turns her camera on four Black trans sex workers and allows them to guide the film. These women – Koko Da Doll, Dominique Silver, Daniella Carter, and the aforementioned Mitchell – invite us into their bedrooms as they discuss transition, sex, money, survival, liberation and much more, coming together to form a portrait of transness, sex work, and Black excellence that defies categorisation.

It’s profoundly intimate, but don’t mistake its simplicity for a lack of substance. Each woman brings her whole self to the film, brimming with confidence, authenticity and power. There’s a unique mix of unflinching honesty and acute self-awareness in these women’s testimonies. At times, it feels like we’re witnessing private conversations between old friends, but the content of the discussions is more impactful than most PSAs. 

But Smith’s interests or aims for the film do not stop at these women. She makes a point to include interviews with transamorous men, people who might be referred to as ‘chasers’ or ‘Johns’ in other contexts, to peel back the duelling layers of attraction and shame that often spiral into violence against Black trans women. The threat of violence is a tragically normalised part of these women’s lives – the killing of Koko Da Doll in April 2023 looms over the entire film, and her scenes especially – and the casualness with which this potential danger is discussed in the film is both remarkably forthright and a devastating punch to the gut. 

It’s immediately clear that this is going to be a different kind of trans documentary

Smith makes phenomenal use of montage and re-enactments to complement what’s being discussed. For a film that is primarily focused on one person at a time, speaking directly to camera, it is never remotely dull. The lean 73-minute runtime gives Smith all the time she needs to conjure a poignant and personal ode to these four women, and the experiences of Black trans women more broadly. We rarely get to see that on screen this powerfully and unapologetically.

In UK and US cinemas Aug 4.

Cast and crew

  • Director:D Smith
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