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Review: ‘Tangerine’


Two trans women of color refuse to let anything come between their friendship.
By B. Root

Transgender Sex Workers Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, l) and Alexandra (Mya Taylor) in Sean Baker’s film Tangerine. Photo: Chris Bergoch/Rex Shutterstock
Transgender Sex Workers: Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, r) and Alexandra (Mya Taylor) in Sean Baker’s film Tangerine. Photo: Chris Bergoch/Rex Shutterstock

After spending the past 28 days in jail, trans sex worker Sin-Dee Rella (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) is released on Christmas Eve and meets up with her best friend, Alexandra (Houston trans actress Mya Taylor), at Donut Time. Chatting as they split a donut, Alexandra unintentionally discloses that Sin-Dee’s pimp boyfriend, Chester (James Ransome), has been cheating on her while she was locked up.

Sin-Dee immediately embarks on a search across Los Angeles to find the “white fish” that Chester has been sleeping with. Alexandra agrees to accompany Sin-Dee, but only on the condition that Sin-Dee promises there will be no drama. However, that promise is quickly broken when Sin-Dee causes a scene in a restaurant as she assertively asks one of Chester’s guys for the whereabouts of Chester and this girl. Alexandra promptly abandons the mission to make some money as a sex worker before her singing show at Hamburger Mary’s that night. Running across the city and knocking down doors, Sin-Dee will stop at nothing to get to the bottom of this scandalous rumor.

Tangerine follows Sin-Dee and Alexandra throughout the rest of Christmas Eve until a confrontational climax brings the audience back to Donut Time, where the film opened.

TangerineDVDCoverDirector Sean Baker offers a beautifully intimate look into the world of these transgender sex workers—an image that is seldom portrayed in film. Most impressive, though, is what’s revealed in the credits—the film, which features exceptional cinematography, was shot entirely on an Apple iPhone 5s. Baker said in an interview with Variety Studio that the decision to shoot on an iPhone originally stemmed from budgetary restraints, but the iPhone quickly proved its worth as a clandestine and mobile means of filming.

What is particularly striking about the film is the dynamics of the friendship between these two trans women of color. Sin-Dee and Alexandra’s relationship is tested multiple times throughout the course of the film, and each time the women show up for each other. Whether these girls need makeup advice or just a hand to hold, it is evident that Sin-Dee and Alexandra care deeply for one another and refuse to let anything get in the way of their friendship. Packed with humor, drama, and a great soundtrack, Tangerine will keep audiences on the edge of their seats, laughing their way to the heartwarming ending.

Tangerine is available November 10 from Magnolia Home Entertainment (


B. Root

B. Root is a frequent contributor to OutSmart Magazine.
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