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Kokomo City director D Smith: ‘A lot of trans documentaries are snoozefests’

Once a Grammy-nominated producer, D Smith was shunned by the music buiness when she came out as trans. A disastrous stint on reality TV followed – and now she has reinvented herself as a film-maker

Kokomo City, the debut feature by musician-turned-film-maker D Smith, sits in a clear lineage of classic documentaries about the LGBTQ+ community. Consisting of unadorned, verite-style interviews with four Black trans *** workers in Atlanta and New York – as well as a handful of trans-attracted men – it takes its cues from vivid, straight-talking films such as Paris Is Burning and Word Is Out.

But Smith also drew influence from a film rarely mentioned in the same breath as staples of the ***** canon: Todd Phillips’s pulpy, controversial 2019 superhero flick Joker. “Not to compare trans women to the Joker, but when I saw that film, it was mind-blowing – it stripped him down, all of the makeup and stuff, and we saw the human side of him,” she recalls. “I thought to myself, ‘This is riveting.’ I just wanted to re-create the narrative of what trans women truly are – we’re human, and this is what we look like. We look like you, we’re fun, and we’re vulnerable like you, and we want love like you.”

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