Sean .S. Baker made his debut into the film making industry in 2000 with “Four Letter Words”, an 82-minute feature film about the lives and attitudes of young men in American suburbs. Four years later – in 2004 – the forty four year old New York University’s Bachelor of Arts in Film Studies graduate teamed up with Shih-Ching Tsou to write and direct “Take Out” an independent film that would in later years receive overwhelming critical acclaim. In 2005, Sean .S. Baker recreated, wrote and directed IFC’s “Greg The Bunny” a hilarious American sitcom that had initially aired in Fox. Half a decade late, in 2010, he directed “Prince of Broadway” which most critics believe to be one of his greatest works having won Grand Jury Prize at the Los Angeles Film Festival and Woodstock Film Festival, and Special Jury Prize at Locarno International Film Festival.
“Starlet”, Bakers fourth film, was released in a limited release edition on March 11, 2012 at South by Southwest (SXSW) festivals.
Known for his quirky methods and a knack for releasing low budget features, Sean .S. Baker’s new film “Tangerine” was exclusively shot using three iPhone 5s smartphones. Shot by Baker and Radium Cheung, the principal photography commenced on December 24, 2013 and wrapped on January 18, 2014.
“Tangerine” was co-written and co-directed by Chris Bergoch and featured Mya Taylor and Kitana Kiki Rodriguez – transgender actresses with little prior acting experience.
The 88-minute film was produced on a limited budget of one hundred thousand (100000) US dollars and was first released on January 23, 2015 at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and later in July 10, 2015 and November 13, 2015 in the United States and the United Kingdom respectively.
The plot picks up at a doughnut shop in Hollywood, California where Sin-Dee Rella (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) a sex worker goes to meet her best friend Alexandra (Mya Taylor). Unintentionally, Alexandra lets out that Chester (James Ransone) – Sin-Dee Rella’s boyfriend and pimp – had being seeing another girl while she was in prison.
What ensues is a comical series of events as Sin-Dee Rella tears through Tinseltown in search of Chester and his white girlfriend Dinah (Mickey O’Hagan) who she refers to as fish. As this goes on, an Armenian taxi driver, Razmik (Karren Karagulian), struggles to raise money for the girls’ company and Alexandra prepares for her stage show in West Hollywood.
“Tangerine” gives its audience a first hand view of the lives of sex workers – both female and transgender – and the community’s struggles with crime, drug addiction and poverty. Although the movie does not look or sound as good as it would have if high tech cameras and sound recording equipment were used, the plot is well-structured and some scenes are amazingly funny.
It is surprisingly good considering that it mostly employed the services of inexperienced actors.