‘Call Her Ganda’ gets rave reviews

Community News & Features Apr 27, 2018 at 4:45 pm
Director, producers and cast at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York.

Director, producers and cast at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York.

Director PJ Raval pleased with audience reception

By Mila Astorga-Garcia
The Philippine Reporter

Call Her Ganda, PJ Raval’s documentary about Jennifer Laude, a trans woman killed by a U.S. marine in the Philippines in 2014, recently received rave reviews published in two major publications: the Toronto-based NOW magazine, which gave it an NNNN rating (5 Ns as highest), and U.S. –based Hollywood Reporter.

The film had its international premiere in Tribeca Film Festival 2018 in New York, and will soon world premiere in Hot Docs International in Toronto. Call Her Ganda has been voted in both festivals as one of the top ten buzziest films.

Call_Her_Ganda_1The film “is an unflinching and eye-opening investigation into the emotional, physical and political toll continued American military presence is having in that country,” writes Kevin Ritchie in Hot Docs Review: Call Her Ganda, published in NOW, April 24, 2018.

Ritchie further describes Call Her Ganda as “a film that doesn’t shy away from challenging anyone’s attitudes about trans people and the ongoing effects of colonialism.”

“It’s clear that Jennifer Laude’s killer is a Marine, but the country’s Visiting Forces Agreement essentially grants immunity to American officers, and the ensuing trial becomes a flash point that blows up politically. By focusing on Laude’s mother, Julita, lawyer Virgie Suarez and Buzzfeed reporter Meredith Talusan, Raval makes clear and compelling connections between personal stories and institutional violence,” Ritchie says.

Frank Scheck, on the other hand, writing for the Hollywood Reporter April 20, in Call Her Ganda: Film Review Tribeca 2018, describes PJ Raval’s film as both “simultaneously heartbreaking and inspirational.”

“The director supplies much needed context with a short history of the Philippines and its colonization by America, as well as a segment devoted to the election of Rodrigo Duterte as the country’s president in 2016 and his subsequent criticisms of the United States’ role in the region,” Scheck notes.

“But it’s the tragic story of Jennifer’s slaying and the search for justice by the three female figures at its center that gives Call Her Ganda its emotional power. Handling its complex issues and complicated plot developments with forceful clarity, the film proves simultaneously heartbreaking and inspirational,” he concludes.

The Philippine Reporter, calling from Toronto, caught up with film director Raval for a brief interview. Asked about his reaction to the film’s apparent success, he says:

“The reception has been really great! Standing onstage during the Q & A at Tribeca, and realizing that we were an all-Filipino team – with some of us from the U.S., Canada and the Philippines” it gave us so much pride that the film apparently had an impact with an international audience.

“Many in the audience were Filipino women. They came up to me to say the film has empowered and inspired them” he adds, saying that it mattered to the audience as to “who is telling the story.”

“It is the story about the Philippines, the involvement of the U.S., colonial mentality, imperialism, and Filipinos tell the story and most of us involved identify ourselves as queer. At the core of it, I think is the basic human rights issue involved in Jennifer’s story that connects everyone in terms of its universal appeal,” Raval concludes.

Raval will in be Toronto with his team for the world premiere of Call her Ganda in Hot Docs, April 28, 9:15 pm, Isabel Bader; April 29, 3:45 pm, TIFF 1; May 6, 5:45 pm, Scotiabank 3

Production: Unraval Pictures, Fork Films, Naked Edge Films

Director: PJ Raval

Screenwriters: PJ Raval, Victoria Chalk

Producers: Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala, PJ Raval, Marty Syjuco, Lisa Valencia-Svensson

Executive producers: Jim Butterworth, Daniel J. Chalfen, Abigail Disney, Barbara Dobkin, Gini Reticker

Director of photography: Mike Simpson

Editor: Victoria Chalk

Composers: Nathan Halpern, Chris Ruggiero