"No one is ever going to ask me to make something as a director. No one is ever going to ask me to produce something as a filmmaker. I kind of have to ask myself to do that."
Named one of Out Magazine’s “Out 100”, PJ Raval’s documentary film credits include Trinidad (Showtime, LOGO) and Before You Know It (PBS). His recent film Call Her Ganda is an intimate investigation into Jennifer Laude, a trans woman in the Philippines who was murdered by a US Marine. Theatrically released fall of 2018, Call Her Ganda is slated for US broadcast summer of 2019 and is currently nominated for a 2019 GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Documentary. On Sunday, March 10, Raval delivered a Film Keynote during the 2019 SXSW Conference.
Raval is the son of immigrant parents from the Philippines. He spoke in great detail about his thoughts and feelings about being an outsider in more ways than one. From growing up in his community in a small town in California to the film industry itself. Raval remarks on how people that grew up in the eighties commonly reflect on watching and identifying with E.T. – but this was not his experience.
"I did not grow up thinking I was going to be a filmmaker. I didn't have the intention to make films. In fact, thinking of a movie like E.T., filmmakers that I have spoken to really identified with the teenagers and the nostalgia for that kind of suburban neighborhood...if anything I identified more with E.T. as an alien."
The second half of Raval's Keynote dealt with his diverse breadth of work, particularly in the world of documentary film. He told the audience what lead him to the small town of Trinidad, Colorado. He met a new friend named Jay and they came to discover that the small town of Trinidad was unofficially coined the "sex change capitol of the world." The pair did extensive research and decided to make a documentary film on this subject. The project gained a lot of momentum through labs, a lot of meetings were set up, but they soon hit a road block. Raval reflects on the "wakeup call" moment, "I remember having these meetings where people were saying: well, I don't know if our audiences want to see something like this or I don't know if our audiences will understand something like this." Eventually, their feature screened at the LA Film Festival and found a home on Showtime.
Raval ended his Film Keynote with a question, "Why do you make films? I would love to think now, whatever I am creating is not just for me, but it's for other people, too."
To explore more about Raval's storied career, watch his full 2019 Film Keynote and more videos on our YouTube channel.
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Film Keynote: PJ Raval - Photo by Dave Pedley