Title: Call Her Ganda
Director: PJ Raval
Starring: Naomi Fontanos, Julita Laude, Virginia Lacsa Suarez, Meredith Talusan
Runtime: 1hr 33min
What It Is: Proceeding the murder of Jennifer Laude, a transgender woman, by an American Marine stationed in the Philippines, we follow an attorney, Jennifer’s mother, and journalist Meredith Talusan in their struggle to have the soldier convicted for his crime and fight against the mistreatment of their nation.
What We Think: Beautifully composed, intimate, and thoughtful: Call Her Ganda is a bleak documentary that is as minimal and observant as all documentaries of its kind should aspire to be. There’s no obnoxious narration, no melodramatic soundtrack. All the technical components work well within the film, with pleasing cinematography and a quiet, contemplative score. The subject in itself is already so drenched with melancholy, delivered without exaggeration or oversimplification. In short, Raval’s Call Her Ganda is a work of true journalism, an important watch reminiscent of The Act of Killing in that it’s about many a tragedy and many a loss that are left behind without justice and crimes that go unpunished. It’s a respectful piece concerned with the safety of a nation, or rather, a community. The case of Jennifer Laude, also known as “Ganda” (meaning “beauty”) not only marks a tragedy in its own right, but a turning point in unravelling the long-imperialistic impression the U.S. has had on the Philippines and the many injustices the country has suffered because of the indifference and indiscretion of our military presence. As well as being a personal film that is very involved with those affected by the loss of Jennifer and featuring civil in-depth discussions, it is important as an international think-piece—namely for us Americans. It’s not just a story about inhumanity: it’s an education. This is happening right now, making it more relevant than ever.
Our Grade: B+, An important and fascinating watch. It’s an upsetting, eye-opening film layered with themes of oppression, inhumanity, and discrimination. When you begin watching the film, you immediately know why Jennifer was murdered—that alone is an unfortunate truth we have had to come to terms with. But how she was murdered and just what happens afterward is nothing you can set expectations for.