In the wildly entertaining and refreshingly unfiltered documentary KOKOMO CITY, filmmaker D. Smith passes the mic to four Black transgender sex workers in Atlanta and New York City – Daniella Carter, Koko Da Doll, Liyah Mitchell, and Dominique Silver – who unapologetically break down the walls of their profession. Holding nothing back, the film vibrates with energy, sex, challenge, and hard-earned wisdom. This vital portrait, edited and shot by Smith in bold black and white, is her feature directorial debut. A two-time Grammy-nominated producer, singer, and songwriter, Smith made history as the first trans woman cast on a primetime unscripted TV show. Executive produced by Lena Waithe, KOKOMO CITY won the Sundance Film Festival’s NEXT Innovator Award and NEXT Audience Award, as well as the Berlinale’s Audience Award in the Panorama Documentary section. Director D. Smith joins us for a conversation on her own journey from the world of music to the world of filmmaking, telling a story that would appeal to people outside the LBGTQ+ community, working with Executive Producer Lena Waithe, sharing the private life of sex workers, morning the loss of a friend and why shooting in black and white was the right choice for KOKOMO CITY.
NEXT Innovator Award – Sundance FF 2023
NEXT Audience Award – Sundance FF 2023
Panorama Documentary Audience Award – Berlin Int’l FF 2023
About the filmmaker – Director/Editor/Cinematographer/Producer D. Smith is a two-time Grammy nominated producer, singer, and songwriter and is now making her film debut as a director of the documentary KOKOMO CITY. Smith’s father was a world-renowned drummer, and she wrote her first song at 10 years-old for the choir at church in Miami, Florida. From 4th grade through High School, Smith was a visual arts student, winning multiple awards for her eye including winning the statewide NAACP Act So award for photography and the statewide Scholastics Congressional award for drawing and was flown to the Capital in D.C. where her work was displayed. After coming out to her father as a teen, Smith was kicked out her house and was taken in by a church member. After graduating High School, Smith used the last of her money on a one-way bus ticket to New York City. She then began singing in the subway where she was first discovered and offered a publishing deal from Sony ATV. As a producer, Smith teamed with songwriter Stacy Barthe and they began placing records with major artists in the music business. Smith produced “Shoot Me Down” for Lil Wayne’s Carter III album which went 8 times platinum and performed with Lil Wayne on Jimmy Kimmel. Smith then signed a major publishing deal with Universal Music. She has produced and written for Cee-lo Green, Estelle, Katy Perry, Andre 3000, Monica, Lloyd, Fantasia, Nipsey Hussle, Ciara, Neyo, and Billy Porter. She has also collaborated with super producers like Timbaland and Marc Ronson. In 2014, Smith decided to walk in her truth and transition into the woman she always knew she was. She was unaware that living in her truth meant that she would have to sacrifice the thing she loved the most, which was making music for a living. People stopped calling. And eventually after running out of money and options, she knew she had to move on from the life she once knew. The silver lining came with the creation of KOKOMO CITY which has breathed new life into her. She devoted almost 3 years to it while crashing on different friends’ couches. All the while diving into the lives of four trans women who had a story to tell. Smith was over the moon to receive the call that KOKOMO CITY was to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.