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2023 IFSN Advocate Award: D. Smith’s Kokomo City

2023 IFSN Advocate Award: D. Smith’s Kokomo City

The Indie Film Site Network (IFSN) which IONCINEMA.com is a part of is thrilled to announce D. Smith’s vibrant directorial debut Kokomo City as the recipient of the 2023 IFSN Advocate Award. The recipient of the award, established to highlight one indie film each year that illuminates a humanitarian or environmental issue with a singular artistic vision, is awarded one million (1M) media impressions across the Indie Film Site Network, which represents The Film Stage, Hammer to Nail, RogerEbert.com, and Screen Anarchy. Letterboxd, the popular social network for cinephiles, is also contributing to the award.

Finalists for the 2023 IFSN Advocate Award are another pair of films from Sundance in Raven Jackson’s All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt and Luke Lorentzen’s A Still Small Voice, one from Cannes in Asmae El Moudir’s The Mother of All Lies, and the other from Telluride in Pawo Choyning Dorji’s The Monk and the Gun.

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.

“Advocating isn’t always pleasant, but advocacy remains to be our greatest ally,” said director D. Smith. “Basic human rights should never be given to someone, It should only be expected. Simply respecting others makes you an advocate. Thank you for this prodigious honor.”

“The IFSN Advocate Award was created for filmmakers like D. Smith, who advocates for a community often silenced,” said Jordan Raup, co-founder of IFSN and editor-in-chief and co-founder of The Film Stage. “Brimming with style and intimacy, the simple conceit of D. Smith’s captivating directorial debut allows space for its subjects––four transgender sex workers––to tell their stories with an entertaining and moving amount of humanity.”

Kokomo City is an act of cinematic bravery, a raucous and moving portrait of lives that aren’t often seen on screen, told with startling honesty and breathtaking craftsmanship,” said Brian Tallerico, Managing Editor of RogerEbert.com. “It’s a phenomenal example of Roger’s belief that film is an empathy machine, putting us in the shoes of lives we would never otherwise emotionally understand.”

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. Kokomo City was released theatrically in July 2023 and is now available digitally from Magnolia Pictures.

The IFSN Advocate Award, created by the network as part of its mission to celebrate and support indie film, is selected by a jury of writers and editors from IFSN sites, with each site nominating a finalist and deliberating to award a winner. The inaugural IFSN Advocate Award winner in 2022 was Shaunak Sen’s All That Breathes, which went on to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary Feature Film.

Indie Film Site Network is a collaboration between well-respected media outlets covering the most essential developments in independent and international cinema. IFSN, which represents The Film StageHammer to NailIONCINEMA.comRogerEbert.com, and Screen Anarchy, was created with a mission to support film criticism and foster an ever-growing community of indie film lovers. For more information, visit indiefilmsitenetwork.com. For sales and partnership inquiries, contact sales@3rdimpression.com.

Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist and critic at IONCINEMA.com (founded in 2000). Eric is a regular at Sundance, Cannes and TIFF. He has a BFA in Film Studies at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013 he served as a Narrative Competition Jury Member at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson's This Teacher (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022 he served as a New Flesh Comp for Best First Feature at the 2022 Fantasia Intl. Film Festival. Current top films for 2022 include Tár (Todd Field), All That Breathes (Shaunak Sen), Aftersun (Charlotte Wells).

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