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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Guldner

Mya Taylor and Kitana Kiki Rodriquez: These girls are the real deal

Updated: Nov 19, 2018

Tangerine (2015) was released at the Sundance film festival amid critical acclaim. Shot entirely on location in the underbelly of Los Angeles were transgender prostitutes work and are vulnerable to hate crimes and drug addiction. Shot with an iPhone 5s the film has a cinematic and documentary feel.  Director Sean Baker who also co-wrote the film with Chris Bergoch created a film that uses color saturation to depict the colorful glow of the golden California sunshine and hyper-animated characters in the transgender community. Acting within the context of a film script about their lives it must have been a surreal experience for Mya and Kitana. This was art imitating life.

Living in Hell A these girls have seen it all!

The absence of transgender stories in cinema is part of a larger issue because of the lack of representation for many people in the LGBTQ community. Only a handful of stories are able to make it to larger audiences due to the fact that not many stories fully embrace narratives of fluid or non-binary gender roles. The heterosexual gaze is the dominant narrative in most stories in mainstream and independent media. Instead of finding heterosexual actors to portray transgender women  Mya Taylor and Kitana Kiki Rodriquez let us view their charismatic friendship as their stories unfolded in the narrative of their lives.

Sean Baker creates a sense of intimacy in the close-ups of his actors and captures the dialogue of their real-life hustle. When Sin-Dee Rella played by Kitana Kiki Rodriguez comes back from a 28-day stint in jail the storyline unfolds as her best friend Alexandra played by Mya Taylor tells Sin her boyfriend Chester has been cheating on her. Enraged Sin-Dee is on the hunt to find the "fish"  who slept with her man. Sin can not believe Chester cheated on her with a fish- a girl who has a vagina. As Alexandra walks to the beat of the pulsating music in the foreground Alexandra shares a childhood memory of a Christmas Eve with her family. Sin reminds Alexandra "the world can be a cruel place, God gave me a penis".

Tangerine was filmed on an iPhone 5s

A dark comedy with emotional weight, Tangerine is set on Christmas Eve which becomes a  catalyst for Razmik (played by Karren Karagulian) to finally come to terms with his own sexuality. Razmik is an Armenian cab driver who drives the track on his downtime. He has paid many times for Sin- Dee and Alexandra's services but has a friendship with Alexandria. Razmik's mother-in-law suspects that he is up to no good when he walks out of his Christmas dinner with his family. His mother-in-law follows him and finds him among Sin-Dee, and Alexandra. Razmik has a role to play in his family, he must pretend he is heterosexual and a good provider. When his true identity is revealed, his world falls apart.

As the evening turns into the early morning and Sin-Dee has experienced a hate-filled encounter with a car full of heterosexual men using derogatory language towards her and spilling soda on her weave, Sin-Dee finds the comfort of the only family she has- Alexandra. The only people they can depend on is each other. They continue to forge on into the start of a new day.

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