Call Her Ganda

Director: PJ Raval
2018 | USA, Philippines | 93m
GENRE: Activism | Asian/Pacific Islander | Death/Dying | Documentary | Gender | Human Rights | Male-to-Female | Military | Transgender | Violence
SECTION: Documentary | Showcase
Expected Guests: Director, PJ Raval, Subject, Meredith Talusan, Producers, Lisa Valencia-Svensson & Marty Syjuco

Her mother called her ganda, “beautiful” in Tagalog. Her family and friends called her Jennifer. The U.S. Marine who killed her called her “it.” This film calls for justice—for Jennifer Laude and for her country. Director PJ Raval (Before You Know It, Trouble the Water) unreels a piercing, kaleidoscopic indictment of U.S. colonial power in the Philippines, set against the aftermath of the brutal murder of a transgender woman.

The evidence is clear: 19-year-old Private Joseph Scott Pemberton is guilty. But the geopolitical situation is murkier: by dictate of a controversial 1999 agreement, the U.S. government retains jurisdiction over military personnel accused of committing crimes in the Philippines. And so we are led, by crusading trans journalist Meredith Talusan, the family’s tenacious attorneys, and Laude’s anguished, grieving mother, in and out of byzantine legal maneuvers, through the dark streets of Olongapo City to interview other transgender sex workers, and back to a kitchen filled with the sizzling of comfort food. Interwoven with Raval’s poetic vérité imagery—marvelously shot by cinematographer Mike Simpson—are cell phone videos of a radiant Jennifer Laude in a red dress, twirling before the camera, that play a haunting refrain. As legal chaos swirls, as the media feasts, as activists march, and as the populist demagoguery of Duterte threatens, we are always brought back to the exquisite humanity and promise of an individual woman.


This film has a scene of transphobic violence.

Call Her Ganda is a recipient of a Frameline Completion Fund Grant.


Center for Asian American Media / Transgender Law Center / Cinematografo Film Festival and ABS-CBN Global

  • Language: In English and Tagalog with English subtitles