Prince of Broadway (2008)
Directed by Sean Baker
Many of the most acclaimed micro-budget directors working in America today—Joel Potrykus, Alex Ross Perry, Rick Alverson—create films centered on hostile narcissists. Not Baker. His films look at marginalized communities with a sympathetic eye, aided by the casting of non-professional actors. Here, that eye is turned toward an illegal Ghanaian immigrant who sells counterfeit merchandise and suddenly finds himself forced to care for an 18-month-old. Baker’s shooting places you alongside the characters while his cross-cutting forces examination of how seemingly disparate experiences are shaped by the same system, generating insight through observation and epiphany through experience. Forrest Cardamenis (July 9, 5:30pm at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Baker series preceding the theatrical release of Tangerine)
Sean Baker’s independent films feature protagonists you don’t normally see on screen: a Chinese delivery guy who sends money back home (Take Out), an elderly woman convinced she’s too old to drive to the store (Starlet), a Ghanaian immigrant who hawks designer knock-offs (Prince of Broadway). Baker’s latest, Tangerine, is about two transgender sex workers, Alexandra (Mya Taylor) and Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez), who spend Christmas Eve hunting down Sin-Dee’s two-timing boyfriend on Santa Monica Boulevard. Though the stories sound like depressing social-realist works—in some ways that’s not entirely inaccurate—Baker’s work is infused with an infectious humor that brings out the best and worst in each character. Abuzz with positive reviews since its Sundance premiere, where it was revealed the film had been shot entirely on an iPhone 5s, Tangerine redefines contemporary American independent cinema. The film opens July 10 in New York.