When 26-year old Filipina transgender woman and alleged sex worker, Jennifer Laude, is found dead with her head plunged into a motel room toilet, the perpetrator is quickly identified as 19-year-old U.S. marine Joseph Scott Pemberton. A military recruit in an unfamiliar land, Pemberton was on “liberty leave” when he solicited Jennifer at a disco. On discovering that Jennifer was transgender, he brutally murdered her, leaving her to be found by her friend and the motel receptionist.
Amidst a media storm and police inquiry, as Jennifer’s family copes with their loss, three women intimately invested in the case, pursue justice—taking on hardened histories of U.S. imperial rule that have allowed previous American perpetrators to evade consequence: An activist attorney, Virgie Suarez, who labors to reveal the truth of Jennifer’s death from inside the courtroom—in the face of strategic silences and sly legal maneuvers from Pemberton’s defense team. A transgender investigative journalist, Meredith Talusan, who determines to bring international attention to the case, writing sharp, in-the-fray essays for VICE, The Guardian and Buzzfeed. And Jennifer’s normally reserved mother, Julita, who finds herself at the affective center of a political uprising, inciting fellow protesters with a tenacious voice she never knew existed.
A modern David and Goliath story, Call Her Ganda follows a cast of willful women as they take on some of the most powerful institutions in the world. Fusing personal tragedy, human rights activism and the little known history, and complex aftermath, of U.S. imperial rule in the Philippines, Call Her Ganda forges a visually daring and profoundly humanistic geopolitical investigative exposé.