“Love Boat: Taiwan” The Seed Planting

Director:Valerie Soe

Once a participant herself, Asian American Studies professor and experimental filmmaker Valerie Soe ran two crowdfunding campaigns to finish the documentary “Love Boat: Taiwan”, which focuses on a summer program that started in 1967. It premiered at Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, and graced Wonderful Theatre in Taiwan as the Closing Film of 2019 Urban Nomad Film Festival.

“Love Boat” is the informal name of “The Overseas Compatriot Youth Formosa Study Tour”, a six-week summer program for collegiate-aged Overseas Taiwanese that is still operating after more than 50 years since the China Youth Corps first launched it, and thus is one of the longest running summer programs in the world. The program not only promotes the cultural greatness and political viewpoint, which is its alternate and original purpose, but also connects the participants as Overseas Taiwanese with their identities and romance that gives it the name “Love Boat”. 

Most interviewees in the documentary of course praise “Love Boat” and claim that it has affected their lives ever since, but Director Soe didn’t only present the pros of the program. She truthfully displayed how participants broke the curfew and the “hook-up culture” on “Love Boat”, even featuring a girl who posted something negative on social media and then “jump ship” within two weeks. However, even though it might seem inappropriate for the sponsors of the program, these are the authentic and precious memories of the participants.

Besides the romance students might find on “Love Boat”, the friendship they established is also very priceless. At the screening of Urban Nomad Film Festival, a bunch of previous participants attended as if it’s a class reunion, and several interviewees in the documentary clearly point out that they still keep contact with counselors or people from their year, or some of them even got married after a few years of dispersing.

Something valuable to notice is that, many interviewees share that they had issues with their own identity at the time, and the program not only helped them find their roots, but also brought people with the same experience together so that they could completely blend in for the very first time.

Aside from all these emotional aspects of the participants, “Love Boat: Taiwan” also discusses politics since “Love Boat” was closely tied to the matter initially. What a controversial and serious subject it is, but Director Soe cleverly injected just the right amount (and right kind) of much-needed yet topical humor into the documentary that the theatre is full of laughter during the screening.

Just as the program planted seeds in participants’ minds, hoping that “Love Boat: Taiwan” could serve the same purpose and create more miraculous stories.

Picture Credit: 2019 Urban Nomad Film Festival


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