Freeman Cebu Entertainment

Jennifer Laude docu ‘Call Her Ganda’ now streaming on Vivamax

STAR CIRCUIT - Ricky L. Calderon - The Freeman

“Call Her Ganda” documents the murder case of 26-year-old Jennifer Laude, a Filipino transgender woman killed in an Olongapo City motel room in October 2014 by U.S. marine Joseph Scott Pemberton.

Hogging headlines then, the death shocked many at the way Laude was killed and the reason for her death. She was strangled and her head dunked in the toilet of the motel where they checked in. She was killed because Pemberton felt shocked and deceived to find out Laude was a transgender woman. “I think I killed a he/she” Pemberton told his comrade, Michael Rose, who testified in court. “It (referring to Laude) had a dick,” that’s why he “choked it/her from behind.”

Laude’s death outraged the public especially human rights organizations, women’s groups and the LGBT community. This outrage intensified when Pemberton was granted absolute pardon by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in 2020. Pemberton had served only six years of his 10-year sentence.

Atty. Virginia Lacsa Suarez, counsel for the Laude family, denounced the pardon. She said President Duterte’s decision is a “mockery of our judiciary and legal system, a travesty of Philippine sovereignty and democracy.” She added that Laude’s case “reflects the systematic discrimination and violence inflicted by U.S. to Filipino women, children and LGBTQ community.”

The Laude family said they thought President Duterte was an ally. “Ayos lang sana kung hindi siya nagbigay ng absolute pardon, para kahit papaano ay may laban naman kami,” said Laude’s mother, Nanay Julita, who called her Ganda.

“Sampung taong pagkakakulong lang sana ang hinihingi naming kabayaran para sa buhay ng anak ko, sampung taon lang sana! Napakaiksing panahong kabayarang pagkakakulong para sa buhay ng anak ko,” she said.

“Call Her Ganda” gives a closer look on how the family fought long and hard for justice and withstood every false criticism hurled at them, every generous offer dangled to drop charges against Pemberton. It shows how Nanay Julita and Atty. Suarez stood their ground against powerful forces: from the U.S-funded legal team, some members of the entertainment industry of Olongapo City that blamed them for the loss of jobs because US servicemen were no longer allowed “liberty” time when docked at the former Subic Base, to the public that judged the Laudes as a family seeking money and a U.S. visa, not justice.

These women and the organizations that rallied around the call for justice for Laude sparked a political uprising that put the spotlight on decades of discrimination and hate crimes against the LGBT community, the inequality in Philippine-U.S relations, the Visiting Forces Agreement which is a bilateral agreement between the Philippines and the US that defines the terms and conditions on the entry and visit of U.S armed forces to the Philippines. It includes the rights of both governments on jurisdiction over U.S. forces who commit criminal acts while in the Philippines.

The film is told through the eyes of Meredith Talusan, a transgender journalist who was then working for Vice magazine. Talusan painted an intimate portrait of what Laude was like, the family and friends who loved her, the men and women who fought for her, and the movement it sparked.

Laude’s friends looked up to her saying she was always after their welfare and never refused a friend in need. She was spirited, sassy and the sunshine in the Laude family. She was the apple of her mother’s eye.

The film is directed by PJ Raval, produced by Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala, Marty Syjuco, and Lisa Valencia Svensson. Its world premiere was at the Tribeca Film Festival, while its international premiere was at Hot Docs in 2018. It won the Grand Jury Award, Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival 2018; Best Documentary Audience Award, Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film Festival; Grand Jury Special Mention, Outfest Los Angeles 2018; Audience Choice, Best Feature Film, Seattle Asian American Film Festival 2019.

Stream this “visually daring and profoundly humanistic geopolitical investigative exposé” on the Vivamax app.

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