Hot Docs 2018: Our Review of ‘Call Her Ganda’

Posted in Festival Coverage, Hot Docs 2018, Movies by - April 24, 2018
Hot Docs 2018: Our Review of ‘Call Her Ganda’

Trans women do not exist within a vacuum – they belong to communities, sociopolitical food chains, and their families. This is especially true with Jennifer ‘Ganda’ Laude, a woman that her mother Julita remembers fondly. The silver lining when it comes to movies like Call Her Ganda is that we’ll always remember Ganda. This also means that Ganda belongs to a statistic. She is one of many Filipino trans women who died under American soldiers’ hands.

The way the film visually depicts Ganda is its most problematic aspect. It either shows her through her selfie videos and through graphic crime scene photos. I can already imagine the arguments for and against the decision to show the latter. These images are – a surprising theme during this year’s festival – part of an incomplete puzzle. She’ll always be a mystery to us especially since she didn’t have to be where she was that night.

The documentary also serves as a portrait of the Philippines’ persecuted trans community. This includes their families, and their allies as they try to bring justice to what happened to Ganda. I already mentioned Julita, the film’s first talking head, who experiences both emotional and financial turmoil after Ganda’s death. There’s also Meredith Talusan, a Filipino American trans female journalist. She is trying to bring awareness to Ganda’s story to Filipino and worldwide consciousness.

The main challenge that these two women face is a flawed justice system. American soldiers in the Philippines usually do not receive prosecution under Philippine law. Talusan and director-producer PJ Raval connect this simple crime case to 500 years of colonial and trans-phobic history. They mostly make their case in that regard. They could have gone into the weeds as to how the case complexities. But the movie adequately gives both information and an empathetic push.

Call Her Ganda is premiering at the Isabel Bader Theatre on April 28 at 9:15 PM. It’s also screening at the TIFF Bell Lightbox at April 29 at 3:45 PM. Last show is at the Scotiabank Theatre on May 6 at 5:45 PM.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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