As the scene fades into black and the final credits appear across the screen, the audience of students fills the hall with loud laughter and applause. The lights turns on, and in through the door walks Filmmaker Sean Baker as he is met with standing ovations.
The City College Film Festival Studies Class met with Baker after an exclusive screening of his new film “Tangerine,” on Saturday, Feb. 6, at Antioch University during the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.
“You’re in for a treat,” said Nico Maestu, chair of the film and media studies department. “It’s spectacular, engaging, fun.”
“Tangerine” is the story of a transgender sex-worker in Los Angeles who finds out her boyfriend cheated on her while she spent 28 days in jail. She meets with her best friend on Christmas Eve at the local donut cafe, Donut Time, and later takes off into the city to search for her man and his mistress.
“What can I say, it was mind blowing,” said City College student Anna Acuna. “My dad is from there so it felt like I was close to home.”
The film is the first to be shot almost entirely with an iPhone and to be premiered at Sundance Film Festival. The decision to shoot the film with a mobile camera came as Baker was forced to work with a tight budget. But he was still certain to get the story out there, he explained.
“I think it’s pretty interesting,” said film production student Reynaldo Ayon. “It proves that anything is possible in the film industry.”
“Tangerine” is not part of the festival, Maestu explained, but the students got a chance to meet the director exclusively. Baker is part of The Jury at the festival, the group of industry professionals who decides which movies will win awards.
“He’s only showing us the film so he can come meet the students,” Maestu said.
Baker came up with the idea for the film when he heard about Donut Time, a small donut café on Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles, and the red light district surrounding it. Reportedly the café was a pretty chaotic place, where something was always going on. He had little knowledge of the topic before starting the research work.
“I’m just a regular white guy,” Baker said. “I’m from outside this world.”
The movie raises many controversial yet important topics such as homosexuality, poverty, drug abuse and criminality. Baker explains that he wanted to mix universal themes with cultural elements from the Los Angeles neighborhood. With the documentary-style footage, the movie is supposed to make the viewers feel like it was taken on the spot, Baker said.
“It’s amazing that he shot it with an iPhone,” said Antioch student Lorenzo Carratú. “And it’s good that they talk about the trans issue and poverty.”