Last week, I chose to watch Call Her Ganda, a documentary directed by PJ Raval that encompasses the case of the death of a transgender woman named Jeffrey/Jennifer “Ganda” Laude. The murder occurred over four years (October 11, 2014) from now when Laude met a United States Marine officer named Joseph Scott Pemberton at the Ambyanz nightclub in Olongapo, Philippines. Based on the words of police officers and witnesses, they eventually checked in to a motel so that Pemberton can pay for having sex which was originally going to be paid in 5,000 Philippine pesos, but Pemberton insisted 1,000 Philippine pesos (approximately $25 US dollars). Thirty minutes later, Pemberton left the motel, leaving the door slightly open and the staff eventually found Laude’s body adjacent to the toilet with her back being black and blue, indicating that she was strangled and drowned. In the bathroom, condoms were found and were subjected to DNA testing and one of them matched Pemberton’s fingerprints.
The main reasons why I was intrigued with this documentary are because of my Filipino heritage and I have a gay uncle from my mother’s side back in the Philippines. After it finished, I even asked my mother if she was familiar with this case and not surprisingly, she said yes and is confused yet frustrated at the same time on why do people do that regardless of what gender/sexuality they are. During the documentary, it also focused Meredith Talusah, another Philippine transgender woman who is a Buzzfeed reporter, as she talks to attorneys, Jennifer’s relatives/close companions, and her fiancé Marc. To me, I thought Call Her Ganda was extremely powerful as it explored more into the tension between the Philippines and the United States mostly over the Visiting Forces Agreement as Pemberton is protected because of it and is subjected to American law as opposed to the Philippine law. As a result, it triggered a lot of protests and it called into question about the autonomy of the Philippines. Even though there were not as much footage of Jennifer since there were only clips of her smiling, you get a feeling of who she truly was, especially her mother as she still continues to weep and mourn ever since the day of her death. If I had one problem throughout the documentary, it would most likely be the focus of Meredith, particularly closer to the end, as it looked like she congratulated herself on the justice for Laude’s death, which I thought was unnecessary.
Other than that, I would recommend Call Her Ganda to anyone, mainly to people who want to delve into politics associated with transgender cases. It would make you ask questions to yourself on how and why this case has not been completely resolved yet.