Tangerine (Baker, 2015)

What do you get when you put together two transgender sex workers, an iPhone 5s, and an Armenian Taxi driver? Sean Baker’s Tangerine.

Shot exclusively on iPhone 5s, Baker’s film takes a stereotyped and misunderstood group of individuals and presents them not just as “transgender” but as real human beings. He does this while invoking gorgeous cinematography no one ever dreamed the iPhone was capable of capturing. 

Tangerine is the story of a day in the life of two transgender prostitutes, Sin-Dee and Alex. The film follows them through the tattered streets of LA, where they encounter cheating pimps, donut stores, and a married Armenian taxi driver. The actresses who play these transwomen are not famous and don’t act for a living. They were discovered by the filmmakers in an LGBT community center. So not only does this film address real issues, it uses real people to tell the story.

This film redefines “buddy film” and shatters conventional film making techniques. Its low-budget approach results in a kind of quirkiness and realism that is hard to recreate. It’s a dark comedy that makes you want to laugh out loud one minute and sit in silent shock by the end. The aesthetic compliments the narrative—handheld camera movements mixed with improvised dialogue while the actors portray extreme versions of themselves.

Tangerine is vigorous and vivid, as well as provocative.

Lucky for you, it’s currently streaming on Netflix. 

—Britt Poteet, student in Film Studies