Call Her Ganda

Community News & Features Mar 23, 2018 at 4:25 pm


A film about Jennifer Laude, the Filipino transgender murdered by a U.S. Marine, to premiere in two international film festivals

Documentary about Jennifer Laude, from award-winning filmmaker PJ Raval, will be world premiering in two prestigious film festivals: the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, and the Hot Docs International Film Festival in Toronto.
The film is about Jenifer Laude, the Filipina sex worker brutally murdered by a US military serviceman when he found out she was a transgender.

“It’s an honor to tell Jennifer’s story and we’re thrilled we’re screening Call Her Ganda for an international audience. The fight for justice c

ntinues!” announces Filipino-Canadian Lisa Valencia Svensson, one of the film’s producers, on the film’s FB page.

The film’s world premiere at Tribeca will be held Thursday, April 19, 6 pm at Cinepolis, followed by other screenings on Friday, April 20, 5 pm at Cinepolis and Saturday April 21, at Regal Cinemas Battery Park.

scheduleIts international premiere at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival in Toronto, will be on April 28, 9:15 pm at Isabel Bader Theatre. (See boxed schedule).


When 26-year old Filipina transgender woman and alleged 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.



Director’s Statement

In December of 2014, I was fortunate enough to be invited by film auteur and scholar Nick Deocampo to travel to Manila and screen my previous two documentary features for the QC Pink LGBTQ+ Film Festival. The festival coincided with the first Quezon City Pride celebration.

Having only visited my parents’ homeland as a child, I was excited to explore the Philippines and forge my own connections to the local queer communities. When I arrived, I discovered a community struck with grief, outraged over the death of Jennifer Laude, a local transwoman in Olongapo found dead in a motel room. With a US marine as the leading suspect, police authorities were unable to detain the US serviceman who was protected by the Visiting Forces Agreement. While serving on a panel about LGBTQ rights, I met Attorney Virginia Suarez who was representing the Laude family. She told us about the case and shared a clip of Jennifer’s impassioned mother, “Nanay” who spoke with a raw passion demanding justice for the death of her child. During the panel someone suggested I make my next documentary about Jennifer and all eyes turned towards me.



PJ RAVAL, director, producer

PJ RAVAL, director, producer

PJ Raval, Director/Producer

PJ 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” and FILMMAKER Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film,” 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. 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.

Lisa Valencia-Svennson, Producer

Lisa Valencia-Svensson is an award-winning documentary film producer based in Toronto. Her first feature length documentary, HERMAN’S HOUSE, won an Emmy for Outstanding Arts & Culture Programming and was nominated for a Canadian Screen Award: Donald Brittain Award for Best Social/ Political Documentary. HERMAN’S HOUSE was broadcast on the PBS documentary series POV and on documentary channel in Canada. Her second feature MIGRANT DREAMS won the Canadian Hillman Prize, world premiered at Hot Docs, where it was a Top Ten Audience Favourite, and screened at DOXA where it received honorable mention for the Colin Low Award for Canadian Documentary. It was broadcast on TVO and is distributed by Cinema Politica. She associate produced several films, including THE WORLD BEFORE HER, which have garnered Emmy nominations and Canadian Screen Awards, have been broadcast internationally, and been screened and won awards at festivals including TIFF, Tribeca, Hot Docs and IDFA.