It’s Christmas Eve, and trans sex worker best friends Sin-Dee Rella (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) and Alexandra (Mya Taylor) have met up in Donut Time. Sin-Dee has just finished a stint in the jail and has just $2 to her name ($1 now she’s bought a doughnut). Alexandra bluntly asserts that Sin-Dee’s pimp-boyfriend Chester (James Ransone) has cheated on her, and more than once. This sparks a remarkable manhunt across the entirety of Los Angeles in search of him.
This is the first film to be shot entirely on iPhones. It shows. What the film gains by not splashing out on cameras, it makes up in other areas, however. It’s allowed a whole range of extras to be used throughout the film, including a cameo from Instagram-famous fashionista Francis Lola. A top-notch soundtrack ranging from the upbeat Bern Nix Quartet’s jazz numbers to more sombre string slurs allows the film to portray a range of different emotions with fluidity. It’s light, bright, and (barring the odd camera wobble) is shot surprisingly well.
“It’s light, bright, and (barring the odd camera wobble) is shot surprisingly well”
The film leaves a serious message. Transgender actors and issues receive depressingly little coverage on screen. Whilst waiting for a bus, Sin-Dee gets a mixed range of looks and later had a drink thrown at her, in contrast to scenes including beleaguered Armenian taxi driver Razmik (Karren Karagulian) – in one, he expresses disgust when a cisgender prostitute enters his car in the transgender red light district. In terms of making a point about culture and attitudes towards people of all genders and sexualities, the film promotes tolerance by depicting intolerance, which is no bad thing.
Verdict: The budget of the film cannot detract from its overall message, which is akin to the world today and is executed with empathetic humour. With a larger budget Tangerine would perhaps have been less successful at showing the problems of a variety of individuals in society in such a meaningful way.