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‘Kokomo City’ project offers a raw glimpse into the world of trans sex workers

Kokomo City is an award-winning documentary that sheds a light into the dangerous world of transgender sex workers.
'Kokomo City' project offers a raw glimpse into the world of trans sex workers
Dominique Silver appears in Kokomo City by D. Smith, an official selection of the NEXT section at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. | Photo by D. Smith. All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or ‘Courtesy of Sundance Institute.’ Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

Kokomo City, the award-winning new documentary by D. Smith offers a candidly raw glimpse into the world of four Black transgender sex workers, Daniella Carter, Koko Da Doll, Liyah Mitchell and Dominique Silver. Lena Waithe is the executive producer of the documentary that scored big at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival snagging both the NEXT Innovator award and the NEXT Audience Award along with the Berlinale’s Audience award in the Panorama Documentary section. The documentary’s success, however, is overshadowed by the recent killing of Koko Da Doll, one of the women featured in the documentary.

Smith acknowledges the film’s continued success is bittersweet without Koko Da Doll’s presence.

“It’s difficult to process Koko not being here but we also know her death proves it’s more important now than ever to inspire the world with her story,” she says.

Kokomo City, shot in black-and-white, shares an unforgiving light on the danger many trans women face working in the sex industry, but also just living a life in pursuit of their personal truth.

“There aren’t a lot of options for trans women for work. Many of us are in the sex workers because that’s the only way we can earn a living,” Liyah Mitchell explains. “Yes, sex work can be dangerous for anyone but there is a whole different level of danger when it comes to trans women. So many girls are killed by their johns just because they are angry at their own truth or are afraid to be ‘outed.’ ”

Dominique Silver is a model, classically trained dancer and actress. She was featured in the Renaissance Couture campaign with Beyonce for French Vogue and has numerous credits under her belt. Even with her accolades and accomplishments, Silver says she misses her life before she transitioned.

“There are so many things I can’t do today. Everything is different, everything changed after I decided to live in my truth. If I had to say one thing I miss the most it would be church. I used to love going to church with my family. I grew up in church, now I’m not welcome there,” Silver confesses.

Smith hopes the raw nature of the documentary will spark conversation, but more importantly action and policies to protect transgender women against the violence that continues to dominate headlines across the country. As a trans woman herself, she hopes to continue creating opportunities for others to walk in their truth without the constant threat of danger.

Kokomo City was released in select theaters on July 28, 2023.

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