Call Her Ganda
directed by PJ Raval
Documentary Feature | 2018 | USA | 93 min | Tagalog with English subtitles
When 26-year old Filipina transgender woman and sex worker, Jennifer Laude, is found dead with her head plunged into a motel room toilet, the perpetrator is quickly identified as 19-year-old U.S. marine Joseph Scott Pemberton. A military recruit in an unfamiliar land, Pemberton was on “liberty leave” when he solicited Jennifer at a disco. On discovering that Jennifer was transgender, he brutally murdered her, leaving her to be found by her friend and the motel receptionist.
Amidst a media storm and police inquiry, as Jennifer’s family copes with their loss, three women intimately invested in the case, pursue justice—taking on hardened histories of U.S. imperial rule that have allowed previous American perpetrators to evade consequence: An activist attorney, Virgie Suarez, who labors to reveal the truth of Jennifer’s death from inside the courtroom—in the face of strategic silences and sly legal maneuvers from Pemberton’s defense team. A transgender investigative journalist, Meredith Talusan, who determines to bring international attention to the case, writing sharp, in-the-fray essays for VICE, The Guardian and Buzzfeed. And Jennifer’s normally reserved mother, Julita, who finds herself at the affective center of a political uprising, inciting fellow protesters with a tenacious voice she never knew existed.
A modern David and Goliath story, CALL HER GANDA follows a cast of willful women as they take on some of the most powerful institutions in the world. Fusing personal tragedy, human rights activism and the little known history, and complex aftermath, of U.S. imperial rule in the Philippines, CALL HER GANDA forges a visually daring and profoundly humanistic geopolitical investigative exposé.
PJ Raval is an award‐winning filmmaker and cinematographer whose work explores the overlooked subcultures and identities within the already marginalized LGBTQ+ community. Named one of Out Magazine’s “Out 100”, PJ’s film credits include TRINIDAD (Showtime, LOGO) and BEFORE YOU KNOW IT, which follows the lives of three gay senior men, described by indieWIRE as “a crucial new addition to the LGBT doc canon.” BEFORE YOU KNOW IT screened theatrically and broadcast premiered as the season finale of AMERICA REFRAMED on PBS, and was recently awarded the National Gay and Lesbian Journalist Association Excellence in Documentary Award 2016. PJ recently completed CALL HER GANDA which follows the events surrounding Jennifer Laude, a trans woman who was discovered dead in a motel room in Olongapo City, Philippines with the prime suspect being a US Marine. CALL HER GANDA world premiered at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival and recently won the Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Documentary at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. Also an accomplished cinematographer, PJ shot the Academy Award‐nominated Best Documentary TROUBLE THE WATER. PJ is a 2015 Guggenheim Fellow, 2016 Firelight Media Fellow, and a 2017 Robert Giard Fellow.