Tangerine, Sean Baker’s funny and poignant feature film about two transgender prostitutes in Los Angeles, made its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. The film has generated substantial buzz, and was picked up by Magnolia Pictures, was shot entirely on an iPhone 5s with Moondog Labs Anamorphic lens adapter.
Tangerine follows Sin-Dee on Christmas Eve after just being released from jail. Upon hearing that her pimp boyfriend hasn’t been faithful during the 28 days she was locked up, the working girl and her best friend, Alexandra, embark on a mission to get to the bottom of the scandalous rumor. Their rip-roaring odyssey leads them through various subcultures of Los Angeles, including an Armenian family dealing with their own repercussions of infidelity.
In the post-premiere Q&A, Baker described development of the film, not only casting newcomers from a nearby LGBTQ community center in lead roles, but also inviting their collaboration on the screen play and dialogue. In describing the film’s aesthetic, Baker described wanting to “go for something very different with the look. We wound up shooting the entire film on the iPhone 5S. We came across two things that elevated the look. Number one is Moondog Labs who created these amazing anamorphic adapters. I wouldn’t have made the film without that. I think it really elevated the look.”
Hollywood Reporter described the film’s look as “crisp and vigorously cinematic with an aesthetic purity that stands out in a field where so much indie filmmaking has gotten glossier and less technically adventurous.” According to Variety, shooting with anamorphic adapters on iPhones gave Tangerine “not only a more intimate, caught-on-the-fly feel, but also a bracingly cinematic widescreen look that takes on an almost radioactive glow in the harsh glare of an L.A. winter.” Tangerine is receiving widespread critical acclaim, expanding recognition of the legitimate role of mobile filmmaking.