Jennifer Laude docu returns home
Jennifer finally comes home.
“Call Her Ganda”—the documentary on Jennifer Laude, the Filipino transgender who died in the hands of US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton—will have its Philippine premiere at the Cultural Center of the Philippines Little Theater on Aug. 4, as part of the Cinemalaya film fest.
“I’m over the moon,” the docu’s director PJ Raval told the Inquirer via e-mail. “As a Filipino-American filmmaker living in the United States, this screening is quite significant, and I’m excited to bring the film ‘home.’”
It’s a one-time-only screening so it’s “not to be missed,” he quipped.
The importance of the docu’s homecoming is not lost on Raval. “Though the film centers around Jennifer and those who fight tirelessly under her name, the documentary is very much about the Philippines and its relationship with the United States as a former (and some may
argue continued) colonizer.”
Ultimately, the Cinemalaya premiere is also a chance for the Filipinos in the docu to finally catch it in the land of its inception, he remarked. “The screening is also for those featured in the film itself and the numerous individuals who not only contributed to the story, but also helped in the making of the film.”
Julita Laude, Jennifer’s mother, and her family have already seen the docu. “They were quite moved by it since it was an account of everything that they had experienced. Nanay, in particular, said she appreciated everything we had done and finally understood why we had filmed her so many times!”
After making the rounds of different festivals in North America (including Tribeca, where it premiered), Raval has high hopes for the Manila debut. “I wish audiences would get the chance to see their stories reflected on the big screen and also recognize that the film is really about a mother who lost her child. You don’t have to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community or be an activist to understand or feel and empathize with Nanay Julita and the other people in the docu.”
In various fests, he has met audiences who are “deeply moved and inspired by the resilience of the women in the film.”
“The international screenings have been truly amazing! We are excited to continue our tour, as well as prepare for the North American theatrical release this fall,” he volunteered.
He recalled that many of the viewers had been “surprised to discover how deep American colonialism runs in the Philippines.”
“They had very little knowledge of Philippine history,” he related. “So the screenings have been quite an eye-opener for them.”
Making the docu was a transformative experience for Raval himself. “I’m Fil-Am … Up until making the film, I hadn’t spent much time ‘home,’ and I’ve always felt a bit estranged. Having made this film, I now feel my own close connection to the country and its people.”
The experience was an eye-opener for him, as well. “Despite following such a dark and harrowing story, I also discovered the beauty and strength of the Philippines. So if anything, I’m prouder than ever of my Fil-Am identity and I hope to make more films here one day.”
He is currently developing a few new projects—including a feature documentary and a docu series. Also in the works is a fiction narrative feature, “loosely inspired” by his “time discovering the Philippines.”
In the meantime, Raval is focusing on the task at hand: reintroducing Ganda, Laude’s nickname, to her fellow Filipinos. “I hope Filipino viewers will recognize that change is possible. And Jennifer’s story is also an inspiring example of what happens when people come together in solidarity to fight for what they believe in.”
He waxed optimistic, against all odds. “We live in a time when coming together to support one another, despite differences and despite the many socio-economic barriers, is more crucial than ever, and we need to show up and support [each other] as community members and also as allies.”
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