When 26-year-old Filipina transgender woman and alleged sex worker Jennifer Laude was found dead with her head plunged into a motel room toilet, the perpetrator was 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.
Amid a media storm and police inquiry, three women intimately invested in the case pursued justice—taking on hardened histories of U.S. imperial rule that have allowed previous American perpetrators to evade consequence. Those heroic women: Virgie Suarez, an activist attorney who works to reveal the truth of Jennifer’s death from inside the courtroom; Meredith Talusan, a transgender investigative journalist determined to bring international attention to the case; and Jennifer’s normally reserved mother, Julita, who finds herself at the center of a political uprising, inciting fellow protesters with a tenacious voice she never knew she had.
A modern David and Goliath story, Call Her Ganda follows this courageous trio 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 is a visually daring and profoundly humanistic geopolitical investigative exposé.
- PJ Raval is the director of Call Her Ganda. His previous films include Before You Know It and Trinidad. Raval is a 2015 Guggenheim Fellow, a 2016 Firelight Media Fellow, and a 2017 Robert Giard Fellow.
- Thomas Watson, senior editorial advisor for the Open Society Foundations’ U.S. Programs, will moderate the event.