This past year, the #OscarSoWhite hashtag splashed across the interweb. A response, protest, and wake-up call due to lack of diversity among the acting nominations for this past years’ Academy Awards. In the wake of that, it may be viewed as refreshing that Magnolia Pictures is planning an Oscar campaign for the transgender actresses in the Sundance hit Tangerine. Variety confirms the distributor, alongside the films’ producers (indie heavyweights Jay and Mark Duplass) are mounting an awards campaign for the films’ stars Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor.
This is the first time trans actors have ever received the awards treatment, marking a historic campaign whether or not it’s successful. Rodriguez, who plays the larger-than-life Sin-Dee in the film, will be campaigned as Best Actress while Taylor, who portrays the more practical-minded Alexandra, will be trumped for Best Supporting Actress. In 2014, Laverne Cox became the first trans performer to receive an Emmy acting nomination for her role in the Netflix series Orange is the New Black. This past year has also heralded the Emmy winning Amazon series Transparent and seen Caitlyn Jenner furthering the trans movement.
Tangerine is a bawdy comedy that revolves around street hustlers Sin-Dee and Alexandra as they wander the streets of Hollywood on a particularly eventful Christmas Eve day. The film was directed by Sean Baker (Starlet) from a script by Baker and Chris Bergoch. The film garnered attention due to the fact the film was shot on an iPhone 5s. A hit at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, where the film made its world premiere, and critically admired (the movie currently holds a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes), Tangerine opened in theaters earlier this summer. While the movie has only made about $700,000 at the box office, the film has been affectionately received by fans and critics. Magnolia intends to send screeners to the actors, writers and cinematographer branches of the Academy.
More so though, an awards campaign for Rodriguez and Taylor might instill a sense of responsibility on terms of casting for transgender characters. In years past, actors including Hilary Swank (Boys Don’t Cry) and Felicity Huffman (Transamerica) have received Oscar nominations for portraying trans characters. This year will also see Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) playing Lili Elbe in Tom Hooper’s upcoming The Danish Girl. In other words, the campaign itself may, in the end, be more meaningful than the results. Mark Duplass said, “Maybe we’re not the first one to get a trans actor nominated. It’s not a loss if we don’t. This is a long play in our minds.”