PJ Raval is more recently known as an award-winning filmmaker than he is an ex-scientist born on Tax Day. Growing up as a queer, first-generation Filipino American in a small, white, conservative town in California’s central valley, PJ’s outsider experience greatly shaped his filmmaking practice. PJ’s work examines social justice issues through the voices of queer and marginalized subjects. Named one of Out Magazine’s ‘OUT 100′ and IndieWIRE’s ‘25 LGBT Filmmakers on the Rise 2019’, PJ’s body of film work has been distributed widely internationally and has been supported by the Guggenheim Foundation, Bertha Foundation, Arcus Foundation, Sundance, Center for Asian-American Media, Tribeca Film Institute, Firelight Media, PBS, and the Ford Foundation. PJ is a 2015 Guggenheim Fellow, 2016 Firelight Media Fellow, 2017 Robert Giard Fellow, a Producers Guild of America member, and a recent member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.
PJ’s latest film CALL HER GANDA is a feature documentary following the story of Jennifer Laude, a local transgender woman who was found dead in a motel room in the port city of Olongopo, Philippines with a 19-year-old U.S. marine as the leading suspect. CALL HER GANDA world premiered at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival followed by an international premiere at HotDocs in Toronto, Canada. The Hollywood Reporter hailed the film “As suspenseful as it is moving”, Now Magazine in Canada gave it 4 N’s and called it “Unflinching and eye-opening”. CALL HER GANDA opened in theaters fall of 2019 earning over a dozen Grand Jury Best Documentary and Audience Choice Awards as well as several critics’ awards and nominations including a 2019 GLAAD Media Award, 2019 Gawad Urian Filipino Film Critics Award, and a 2019 Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences Best Documentary nomination. CALL HER GANDA recently aired on POV reaching millions of PBS viewers across the US and was awarded the 2020 Excellence in Documentary Award by the NLGJA Association of LGBTQ Journalists.
PJ’s previous feature documentaries include BEFORE YOU KNOW IT which follows the lives of three gay senior men (SXSW, Edinburgh International) hailed by Slant Magazine 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 in over 50 theaters in the US, Canada and the U.K. and was broadcast as the season finale on America ReFramed on WORLD Channel earning PJ the NLGJA Association of LGBTQ Journalists Excellence in Documentary Award in 2016.
PJ also produced, directed, and shot (alongside collaborator Jay Hodges) the feature documentary TRINIDAD which uncovers Trinidad, Colorado’s transformation from Wild West outpost to “sex change capital of the world..” 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, STARZ, and Discovery International and continues to reach audiences around the world.
Most recently, PJ produced, directed and shot the award winning short documentary COME & TAKE IT which captures Jessica Jin’s transformation from Chinese-American college student into one of America’s most irreverent anti-gun violence leaders, creating what some people are calling The Great Texas Dildo Revolt. Co-directed and co-produced by Ellen Spiro (BODY OF WAR, TROOP 1500) COME & TAKE IT has won several awards including the Audience Awards for Best Documentary Short at the New Orleans Film Festival and Sidewalk Film Festival and is distributed by Grasshopper Film.
In addition to his feature documentary work, 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, Oberhausen, 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 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.
Also an award-winning cinematographer, PJ’s work has 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 Tia Lessin and Carl Deal (FAHRENHEIT 9/11). 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 narrative feature ROOM (Sundance, Cannes Director’s Fortnight), the Los Angeles Film Festival Narrative Feature Award winner GRETCHEN, and SUNSET STORIES directed by Silas Howard (FX POSE) & Ernesto Foronda (BETTER LUCK TOMORROW).
PJ also lensed FOURPLAY, four true tales about sexual intimacy, his second feature with acclaimed director Kyle Henry (ROOM), executive produced by Michael Stipe and Jim McKay. FOURPLAY TAMPA, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival as well as Sundance and FOURPLAY SAN FRANCISCO was awarded “Best Narrative Short” at the 2011 NewFest NY LGBTQ 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 (Fipresci Prize Best Feature, Winner Best Arab Feature Dubai International Film Festival, Official Selection Venice Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival 2011) as well as PRIMATE CINEMA: APES AS FAMILY the first film created for a chimpanzee audience directed by Rachel Mayeri (Sundance, Berlianle 2013). PJ lensed Bryan Poyser’s highly anticipated feature LOVE & AIR SEX (SXSW, BFI London). 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.”
In his spare time PJ likes to try and take small naps and pretend he knows ballet.