PJ Raval is more recently known as an award-winning filmmaker than he is an ex-scientist. Born to immigrant parents and having grown up in a small, white, conservative town in California’s central valley, PJ’s outsider experience has greatly shaped his filmmaking practice. PJ’s work explores the overlooked subcultures and identities within the already marginalized LGBTQ+ community. Named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s ‘25 new faces of independent film′ and Out Magazine’s ‘OUT 100′, PJ discovered film and video after working with photography and media installation art early in his career.
PJ recently completed CALL HER GANDA a feature documentary following the news story that crossed the globe when a local transgender woman was found dead in a motel room with a 19-year-old U.S. marine as the leading suspect in the Philippines. The film was supported by the Guggenheim Foundation, Bertha Foundation, Arcus Foundation, Sundance, Center of Asian-American Media, Firelight Media, Austin Film Society, Fork Films, and the Ford Foundation, and world premiered at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival followed by an international premiere at HotDocs in Toronto, Canada. Hollywood Reporter called the film “As suspenseful as it is moving”, Now Magazine gave it 4 N’s and called it “Unflinching and eye-opening”. CALL HER GANDA has won several awards thus far including the Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Documentary at the LA Asian Pacific Film Festival, Best Documentary Audience Award at Toronto Inside Out, and the Grand Jury Award Best Documentary Special Mention at Outfest. The film was the opening night of the Dokyu section of Cinemalaya, and will be the opening night of aGLIFF in Austin, TX as well as one of two films chosen out of over 300 entries as a finalist for the Grand Jury Award for the Guam International Film Festival taking place in October of 2018. The film is slated to theatrically release in the US in late September.
Previously, PJ directed and produced BEFORE YOU KNOW IT a feature documentary following the lives of three gay senior men (SXSW world premiere & “Buzz Screening”, Edinburgh International Film Festival). Slant Magazine hailed BEFORE YOU KNOW IT as “Exemplary…a documentary that successfully puts human faces on wider issues…” indieWIRE described the film as “…a crucial new addition to the LGBT doc canon.” BEFORE YOU KNOW IT garnered several awards including “Best Documentary Jury Award” at the Reeling Chicago Gay and Lesbian Film Festival as well as the “Audience Award” at both the Austin LGBT Film Festival and Montreal’s image + nation 26 Film Festival. BEFORE YOU KNOW screened theatrically at over 35 theaters nationwide as well as Canada and the U.K. and was broadcast as the season finale on America ReFramed on PBS’ World Channel earning PJ the NGLJA Queer Journalist Excellence in Documentary Award in 2016.
In addition, PJ also continues to collaborate on a collection of highly charged, not-safe-for-work videos with performer and “provocateur” Paul Soileau (a.k.a. CHRISTEENE) under the name “Three dollar Cinema”. Their work has screened at SXSW and various underground, above ground, and art venues internationally. Banned from YOUTUBE and FACEBOOK alike (MmmHmm…), their collaborative efforts is best summed up by the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER as “…something you desperately wish you could un-see…” Their collaborative work was nominated for an Austin Critics Table Award in 2010, and in 2012 PJ and Paul were invited to the CentralTrak Artist Residency Program, University of Texas Dallas to create a new video series based off of stories from the Old Testament. The artist residency resulted in the creation of the high spirited televangelist duo Reverie & Randee also known for their telethon charity work for the queer arts festival OUTsider both of which PJ and Paul are founding members of and currently serve on the board of directors.
PJ’s previous film TRINIDAD uncovers Trinidad, Colorado’s transformation from Wild West outpost to “sex change capital of the world” and follows three influential transgender women who may steer the rural ranching town toward becoming the “transsexual mecca”. Called “a must see” by Ellen Huang (GLAAD), TRINIDAD won the Cleveland International Film Festival “Documentary Jury Award” and was broadcast on SHOWTIME as well as MTV’s LOGO network and Discovery International and continues to broadcast around the world.
Also an award-winning cinematographer, PJ’s work has been showcased at both Sundance and Cannes and earned him awards such as the ASC Charles B. Lang Jr. Heritage Award as well as the Haskell Wexler Award for Best Cinematography. PJ has been featured in AMERICAN CINEMATOGRAPHER and shot the 2009 Academy Award nominated and 2008 Sundance Film Festival Documentary Grand Jury Award Winner TROUBLE THE WATER produced/directed by FAHRENHEIT 9/11 producers Tia Lessin and Carl Deal. Manohla Dargis with THE NEW YORK TIMES called the film “SUPERB… One of the best American documentaries in recent memory.” PJ’s feature cinematography credits also include, the 2006 Independent Spirit Award nominated ROOM (Sundance, Cannes), the Los Angeles Film Festival Narrative Feature Award winner GRETCHEN, and SUNSET STORIES (SXSW 2012, VC Los Angeles Asian American Film Festival Centerpiece) directed by Silas Howard (BY HOOK OR BY CROOK) & Ernesto Foronda (BETTER LUCK TOMORROW).
PJ also shot FOURPLAY, four true tales about sexual intimacy, his second feature with acclaimed director Kyle Henry, produced by Jason Wehling and executive produced by Michael Stipe and Jim McKay. One of the stories, FOURPLAY TAMPA, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival as well as the Sundance Film Festival in 2011 and FOURPLAY SAN FRANCISCO was awarded “Best Narrative Short” at the 2011 NewFest Film Festival. PJ also shot HABIBI RASAK KHARBAN a story of forbidden love and the first fiction feature set in Gaza in over 15 years directed by Susan Youssef (WINNER FIPRESCI PRIZE BEST FEATURE, WINNER BEST ARAB FEATURE Dubai International Film Festival 2011, Official Selection 2011 Venice Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival) as well as PRIMATE CINEMA: APES AS FAMILY the first film created for a chimpanzee audience directed by Rachel Mayeri (Sundance 2013, Berlianle 2013). Most recently PJ lensed Bryan Poyser’s highly anticipated feature LOVE & AIR SEX (SXSW). Variety praised PJ’s cinematography by writing, ”d.p. PJ Raval makes everything else look every bit as professional as a studio comedy, while capturing the flavor of Austin’s most popular bars, restaurants and hangouts.”
PJ is a 2015 Guggenheim Fellow, 2016 Firelight Media Fellow and 2017 Robert Giard Fellow.
In his spare time he likes to try and take small naps and pretend he knows ballet.