Movie Reviews

Sundance 2023: Kokomo City, Twice Colonized, Little Richard: I Am Everything | Festivals & Awards

The women interviewed here—Liyah Mitchell, Dominque Silver, Koko Da Doll, and Daniella Carter—are scholars of their experience. Smith empowers them throughout, giving them space in the edit and with each extreme close-up of a weaponized body part, sometimes in slow motion. The editing by D. Smith—who also filmed it—has essential energy and offers a prismatic look at such an intricate topic. These women have revealing, heartbreaking, sometimes hilarious stories to tell about their own lives and the many thoughts they have gathered from dealing with men (in this case, a large number of Black men) who seek to exploit them and sometimes push for secrecy. Meanwhile, Smith also interviews men who desire trans women, and they too speak freely. Smith has a smattering of monologues at her disposal and cuts them with a great deal of humor and free spirit, sometimes bouncing between one confessional and then a reenactment. 

The one major setback to Smith’s raw vision—which includes a black-and-white that’s never afraid of blowing out a lit background behind its figure (pure Sundance!)—is the wall-to-wall, non-specific choice of music. But there are plenty of more distinct and memorable pieces to this documentary, one that thrives on making its art out of visibility and honesty. 

The World Cinema Documentary entry “Twice Colonized” gets personal with an extraordinary woman named Aaju Peter. She was born in Greenland where she soon became “Whitenized” by the government, put in different families and schools for a good education, and removed from her culture and family. Now, she lives in Canada, where she landed after getting away from a place that can make her angry—it’s painful for her to speak Dutch. The film has a “Lived By” credit for Peter, and it follows this fascinating figure as she faces the past, present, and future of who she is and what she stands for. 

Peter has become an advocate for Indigenous cultures being able to represent themselves against colonizing governments—the beginning of the movie depicts how she tried to stand up for the Inuk right for seal hunting as part of their economy before a harmful ban came into place (a chapter that could have used more time, or at least makes for a jarring introduction). Peter’s life’s work is about striving for that independence while also being a free spirit who loves to dance on hotel beds. 

Her work is made all the more visceral by the bits of her life that show how she too seeks strength. There are scenes where we hear about an abusive relationship with her boyfriend, and in her own words, she notes how the colonization she experienced as a child has connected. “I didn’t realize how colonized my mind was,” she says. “And my relationship to others is a manifestation of this.” She experiences a horrible loss early into the documentary’s filming, and “Twice Colonized” gently factors it into the larger health crisis affecting her community.  

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