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Filmmaker PJ Raval on Activism in Film

In this segment of So Hot we asked #PJRaval, a Filipino American film maker, to tell us more about his latest projects, starting with the documentary “Come & Take It”which is a short documentary that follows Jessica Jin’s transformation from a college student into one of America’s boldest anti-gun violence activist.

PJ says he found Jessica’s story interesting because she comes across as someone who would typically be underestimated by the public in terms of leadership. In the film, Jessica admits she, herself was surprised by it and this is something that viewers would see in the film.

PJ is known for highlighting social issues in his work and most especially LGBTQ rights in his recent projects (Call her Ganda, Trinidad and Before You Know It). As an artist and creator, he says he wants to use his skills to support movements and better the lives of many – “Film is a tool for empathy and for understanding as it ultimately connects people to one another.”

Then PJ discusses “Call Her Ganda” which is his film about the life of Filipina trans woman – Jennifer Laude whom he regard as a “symbol of continued American Imperialism in the Philippines.”

He adds that he also finds Jennifer’s story inspirational because it galvanized the country’s (Philippines) perspective towards LGBTQ. He says there is an act of ally-ship to be able to stand against a foreign superpower and this, to him, that is very inspiring. However, PJ’s admits he was very disappointed to find out that Jennifer’s murderer was pardoned by President Duterte.

“I do think it is a slap in the face to the Philippine Justice System,” he explains. He says he finds it unbelievable that even though the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Corrections opposed the pardon, it was still pushed through. But still noting the positive – PJ says it’s not complete loss: “Because with a pardon, entails a crime had happened and there was a conviction. It remains a mark in history that Pemberton (Jennifer’s murderer) was still convicted in the Philippines.”

PJ says the Filipino-Americans are the second largest Asian American group in the US and the numbers are rising, yet he notices that there is still very little representation of Filipinos both in front of and behind the camera. It is fortunate however, that the industry is now recognising the need for Filipino filmmakers and unique stories. He says he hopes that the industry is paying attention to the Filipino audiences who want to hear and see stories that they can relate to.

PJ and Excutive Producer/Host Jannelle So point out how wonderful to find that there are more and more Filipino filmmakers wanting to support each other: “A win for one of us, is a win for all of us,” PJ exclaims. He adds that he wants to see Filipino to one day form a production company or an official program to bring all the Filipino filmmakers together.

PJ also invites the viewers to watch out for his projects as he has a lot of docuseries that he is currently working on. One of them is called “Kapwa” which is about Filipino Americans in the United States. Another one is called “In Plain Sight” which is a collaboration of 80+ visual artists and organizers who are protesting immigration detention centers.

And he closes the interview by saying that one thing he is very excited about is that he will be continuing to make films about the Philippines and Filipino American Communities!

If you would like to keep updated with PJ Raval’s projects you can visit www.pjraval.com.

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