My Review of "Call Her Ganda"
A documentary about an important case for not only one demographic of the Philippines but for the country as a whole.
Call Her Ganda is a documentary on a very gruesome murder in the Philippines. Being based on a criminal case the movie spans several years. Luckily the documentary doesn't feel like it lasts as long as the actual trial. When I first heard of this film I thought it was simply a murder case but it ended up being much more important than that. It's a very interesting understanding of what's going on in the Philippines as well as its transgender community.
The film starts off with telling us outright what happened. There's a beautiful woman by the name of Jennifer Laude that was murdered in a hotel. The issue at first was the fact that she was murdered because she was in fact a transwoman. We soon learn the major players involved with this incident.
We learn that Jennifer was close to her family and was basically raising money to help her impoverished family make ends meet. She also happened to have a German fiancé and the two were to wed not too long after the time of the incident. On the other end we learn that the main culprit is an American Marine by the name of Joseph Pemberton.
There are few witnesses and the evidence that they were able to sweep up from the room was obtained by American authorities. This is a very sticky situation as it was an international incident.
The filmmaker does a good job in giving us the background of the history of transgenders in the Philippines. Apparently, transgender people were very accepted and glorified in the Philippines prior to colonization from Spain. Perceptions of transgender individuals had changed drastically after the colonization of the country. It's a shame because this also means that this is probably only the surface of the culture and history that was removed from the Philippines.
Now that transgendered people in the Philippines are so marginalized they have few opportunities for income. One of the main sources of incomes for these individuals is the sex industry. This goes into a second huge issue in the Philippines. The documentary tells us that the United States had essentially purchased the Philippines from Spain at one point and have unfair connections with the Philippines.
This is basically why there is such a huge American military presence in the Philippines. Joseph Pemberton's case is even further complicated because he is an American Marine and his case could possibly create a precedence. One of the big stipulations in one of the major treaties that the Philippines and the United States is that Americans can gain the authority to take power over a criminal investigation concerning Americans.
One of the biggest worries of Jennifer's family is that Joseph would be able to get away with his crimes and set a precedence that Americans can get away with crimes in the Philippines. Even if he gets convicted he may not even serve any time in a Philippine prison. This brings up a ton of issues that affect the broader spectrum of the Philippines.
The people of the Philippines have felt oppressed for long enough and felt that they were still puppets of another nation. Their true independence was not being felt. If this trial goes in favor of Joseph then it just further proves that the Philippines don't have control over their own judicial system.
There were so many questions and interesting factual tidbits sprinkled throughout this film that I was hard-pressed to be bored at any moment. It was a very informative film that made me understand the plight of the Philippine people in their own country. The film even goes into some of the government changes in the past few years that have or haven't affected the independence of the Philippines.
My only complaint about this documentary was that the pacing was a little off but I understand why. They were trying to add so much relevant information to this movie that it's hard to know what to take out while keeping this film focused at the task at hand. Some of the information was very interesting but it sort of went on tangents as to what this movie was actually about. Perhaps if it was rearranged a little bit it would have fit a lot better. Instead maybe start up with the history to build up the importance of the case and then go into what had happened and then explain happened?
Overall, I thought this was a very interesting documentary and I learned a ton from it. This film actually made me want to look up for more information about the history of the Philippines. As a film it was a little messy though. It felt like more of a news article that went on tangents rather than an actual focused story. I have to give this one a 6.5 out of 10. It is entertaining enough from the sheer amount of information they added to it. The only thing is that the execution of the overall package wasn't as great as it could have been.