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PJ Raval's unflinching doc examines the colonial relationship between the United States and the Philippines
CALL HER GANDA (PJ Raval, U.S.). 93 minutes. Rating: NNNN
PJ Raval’s doc about a trans woman in the Philippines who was murdered by a U.S. Marine in 2014 is an unflinching and eye-opening investigation into the emotional, physical and political toll continued American military presence is having in that country.
It’s clear that Jennifer Laude’s killer is a Marine, but the country’s Visiting Forces Agreement essentially grants immunity to American officers, and the ensuing trial becomes a flash point that blows up politically. By focusing on Laude’s mother, Julita, lawyer Virgie Suarez and Buzzfeed reporter Meredith Talusan, Raval makes clear and compelling connections between personal stories and institutional violence.
In one of the most interesting scenes, a trans activist and friend of Laude’s explains how trans culture in the Philippines predates American colonialism, and another of Laude’s mother speaking to a scrum of reporters while clearly in the throes of grief is devastating, recalling the African-American mothers forced into the spotlight hours after police killings of their sons or daughters. This is a film that doesn’t shy away from challenging anyone’s attitudes about trans people and the ongoing effects of colonialism.