Prophecy of Digital Film Fulfilled.
When I was in college in the early 2000's I had a film studies professor who would always say that with greater access to digital filming technology, film making was on the brink of an explosion of democratization. In a way he was right within ten years with the break out of youtube as a distributor and GoPro has made a relatively affordable camera that can do anything. GoPro has democratized movies for people engaged in extreme sports, but Tangerine (2015) has shown a democratization of film through the telephone.
Tangerine is a breakthrough for being the first major festival movie (and now a movie with a high profile on Netflix) to be filmed entirely on an iPhone, and for trans actress Mya Taylor winning some of the most prestigious acting awards a trans actor has won to date with as the best supporting actress in the Independent Spirit Awards and another film critics award from another festival. This is more than just a movie about trans women in LA, or prostitution, or drug use, or infidelity, or incarceration, or about an app on a phone that makes it so that you can make a movie. This is a movie about story lines that smash into each other and change, and connections between people.
On its face, this is a movie about a woman hunting down her cheating boyfriend after she has been away for a month. To complicate things, the month was spent in jail, the boyfriend is the girlfriend's pimp, and the girlfriend is trans. But, as peripheral characters put it, almost all of these issues are just "drama," and the real issue is what comes to seem normal in the film which is the trans community on the streets that is so normalized that a "john" is upset when a hooker he picks up is not trans.
This is a film about the struggle of trans people. That no matter how normalized they may seem in society, or on the streets, they still have higher instances of living or working on the streets. In the film the most prominent cisgender prostitute works out of a motel room brothel but still has a roof over her head, and the main characters are on the streets and if they work it is in a car and not in a solid building, or out of any semblance of a home. Even in the lowest status in society, they are in a lower status than the "norm."
The story telling in this film is well constructed. All of the stories run into each other at the end, then evolve to show untold aspects to the story that are more important than the conflicts of the movie. The audience doesn't have their hand held with the issues of the movie, but rather sees affects of the issues on the characters. The characters do tell us what problems trouble them, but they don't preach to the audience on social issues. The social issues are their lives, they aren't slogans or complaints.