Fresh off its Tribeca world premiere, and currently wrapping up at Hot Docs (till Sunday, May 6th), Call Her Ganda, an alumnus of Spotlight on Documentaries at IFP Week, is the latest feature from 25 New Faces of Independent Film alum PJ Raval. The thought-provoking doc follows the heartbreaking and utterly thorny story of Jennifer Laude, much beloved by a doting mother (who called her by her nickname “Ganda,” which means “Beauty”), sisters, and her German fiancé. After a night out with girlfriends back in 2014, the 26-year-old ended up being murdered by US marine Scott Pemberton, who left her naked body in a hotel room bathroom, her head in the toilet. That Jennifer had the bad luck of being a member of an oft-ostracized community — in this case trans sex workers — in a country (the Philippines) that allows for the US military to be exempt from its local laws, is what makes her tragic death also so very complicated.
What makes Call Her Ganda so powerful is that Raval smartly widens the lens to tell Jennifer’s tale through the afterlife of her death, an event that brought together three real-life wonder women — a grieving mother who refuses to let her daughter be shamed, a tenacious, trans American journalist with roots in the Philippines, and a cisgender female lawyer determined to put a check on US imperialism.
Filmmaker caught up with Raval during Hot Docs to discuss what happens when human rights activism collides with American impunity in a country now run by a brutal, anti-Western, strongman.
To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.