Film

‘Ganda’: More Than a Murder

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“Call Her Ganda” examines not only the murder of a Filipino by a US Marine, but also sheds light on how the US presence in the Philippines remains much like an “occupation” to some Filipinos.

Director PJ Raval

Director PJ Raval

The documentary came about when American filmmaker PJ Raval happened to be in the country of his parents’ birth shortly after the murder. An enraged Marine acted in what he calls self-defense after discovering Jennifer Laude, the woman he picked up, is transgender.

Raval does a good job explaining the relationship between the Philippines and the United States, and why Filipinos believe that justice cannot be served for their people, with a Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) in place that allows American service members to avoid local imprisonment.

“Not a single American soldier has ever been punished,” says the Laude family attorney, whether a murder or rape victim is “16 years old or 6 years old … If you don’t have money, you won’t have justice.”

Murder victim Jennifer Laude

Jennifer Laude

Shot as the murder investigation unfolds from the viewpoint of Meredith Talusan, a Filipina-American reporting the story, considerable time is spent with Julita, Laude’s mother, whose pain has released a militant voice within her, as she seeks justice for her child. Eventually, the story becomes “an international incident,” as Meredith’s coverage is published.

“For the first time people are seeing us,” says one of Jennifer’s friends.

“Ganda” also takes a helpful look at how the United States came to gain a foothold in the Philippines. One archival newsreel  shows the American flag with patriotic music in the background, touting how the US Government “liberated” the Filipino people from Spanish rule. But the US seems to be in control, even though the Philippines are technically an independent country.

Raval’s film gives an intimate look the Filipino people, raising questions about what they’re getting in return for allowing the United States to have a permanent foothold at their strategic ports.

“Call Her Ganda” screens at Saturday, July 14, at 11:30 a.m. at Harmony Gold Theater. 

 

Journalist Laurie Schenden covers the entertainment industry, with many of her notable celebrity interviews appearing in the Los Angeles Times and other national and international publications. As a longtime columnist and feature writer for the LA Times, she also covered events and California destinations for the lifestyle, Outdoors and Travel sections. Laurie Schenden's international pieces include the long-running Where Are They Now celebrity feature for Spotlight Magazine, published in five languages. Laurie has also contributed to numerous documentary films, and is currently producing a documentary for her own company, Saving Grace Films.

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