In Kokomo City, filmmaker and Grammy-nominated artist D. Smith makes their feature directorial debut with a grippingly raw documentary that puts the lives of four Black trans sex workers in Atlanta and New York City into the spotlight: the late Koko Da Doll, Liyah Mitchell, Dominique Silver, and Daniella Carter.
The film, which is currently in theaters debuted at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year and it immediately garnered acclaim, winning the Sundance’s NEXT Innovator Award as well as the NEXT Audience Award. Kokomo City also won the Berlinale’s Audience Award in the Panorama Documentary section. The film also garnered the attention of Lena Waithe’s Hillman Grad as she joined the film as a producer.
For Carter, her journey started with an appearance on Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word. “At that time, I was just getting out of foster care,” Carter told GLAAD’s Shar Jossell in a recent interview. “ I had just dealt with rape and from that opportunity, by sharing that truth, I did get public speaking engagements … but in all transparency, it was very limited opportunities that came in.”
Smith approached Carter with the opportunity. By this time, Carter was working at an ad agency and had started a digital film festival. She was surviving and thriving.
“I was balancing sex work and getting opportunities in so-called corporate America and I wanted other trans youth and other trans people to know it’s OK do what you have to do and you don’t have to carry shame for it.
She added, “I didn’t want people to always see this glamorized version of me…. love to be a polished girl but [Kokomo City] was an opportunity for me to just be real and live in my truth unapologetically.”
Carter hopes that the Black community can watch the film and realize they have been hurting as a culture. “We need to begin to heal and instead of attacking one another, we need to look at the systems that have been created for us to do the very thing that they want us to do,” she said. “Divide kills and love heals. When we begin to heal as a community and as a culture, we then know what the liberation looks like… it’s not a fight against each other, but it’s including one another.”
“Kokomo City” is in theaters now.