Utah-based Angel Studios has Hollywood scratching its head with its crowdfunding ticket model for “Sound of Freedom”: Its Pay It Forward program allows audiences to purchase tickets for others who don’t have the mean to buy one themselves.
Now, D. Smith’s Sundance-winning documentary “Kokomo City” is adopting a similar strategy. And while this is a very different kind of film than “Sound of Freedom,” the ticket-buying option is clearly inspiring similarly innovative models. “Kokomo City” distributor Magnolia Pictures has set up a website encouraging viewers to “Support the Girls,” meaning for the next two weeks you can contribute a ticket for someone else to see the moving and hilarious documentary about Black trans sex workers at IFC Center in New York City.
The film will head nationwide in a wider release beginning August 4 — dates and locations are here — but for now, IFC Center in New York is the documentary’s exclusive home. Via Magnolia’s Support the Girls website, you can buy a ticket for yourself, buy a ticket for someone else, or claim a ticket for free that someone else has purchased for any screenings at the Greenwich Village IFC hub.
“Kokomo City,” which IndieWire called a “rollicking” and “transcendent debut,” focuses on the lives of four Black trans sex workers who live in Georgia and New York, illuminating the joy and hardships they face. The documentary premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival to critical acclaim and won the Panorama Audience Award at the Berlin Film Festival. It was a risky overnight buy for Magnolia Pictures out of Park City, but the lively black-and-white portrait of trans women delivering hope and wisdom and sharing hard-earned truths could offer alternative programming for those who’ve already seen “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” and are looking for something else. (Magnolia’s social media campaign has already quoted The Washington Post in touting the film as a “Barbie” flip side.)
The film’s success has also been mired in tragedy that brings an unfortunately timely resonance to the film given the current forces working politically working against LGBTQ people in America. One of the film’s subjects, Koko Da Doll, was murdered this past April not long after the film’s Sundance premiere. In a statement responding to the tragedy, director Smith said at the time, “I created ‘Kokomo City’ because I wanted to show the fun, humanized, natural side of Black trans women. I wanted to create images that didn’t show the trauma or the statistics of murder of Transgender lives … It’s extremely difficult to process Koko’s passing, but as a team we are more encouraged now than ever to inspire the world with her story. To show how beautiful and full of life she was.”
There is a groundswell around this film that could help it advance in a mostly quiet theatrical summer for documentaries: Billy Porter bought out a July 28 screening of the film at IFC Center on behalf of the Ali Forney Center, an organization that protects homeless LGBTQ young people from homelessness and empowers them to find the tools for independence. More buyouts, IndieWire is told, are in the works.
“Make no mistake, (director) Smith announces wordlessly from behind the camera: I have arrived to change the game,” IndieWire wrote out of Sundance.
Check out Magnolia Pictures’ Support the Girls website to buy a ticket for yourself, or someone else, here.