Thu, May 09, 2019 - Page 13 News List

Bringing the ‘love’ back home

Valerie Soe’s documentary on Taiwan’s legendary ‘Love Boat’ program for ‘overseas compatriots’ will make its Taiwan premiere with 24 other feature films at the Urban Nomad Film Festival, which begins on Saturday

By Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

A Bread Factory Part 1, directed by Patrick Wang.

Photo courtesy of Urban Nomad

Filmmaker Valerie Soe’s Taiwanese camera crew had never heard of the “Love Boat,” even though it has been taking place since 1967. Officials Soe interviewed were not happy with the moniker, whose preferred name is “Overseas Compatriot Youth Summer Formosa Study Tour,” — but that probably wouldn’t have registered either.

“The government officials’ idea of what the program is about is quite different from what it actually was,” Soe says. “They said it’s not about romance; it′s about learning your culture, your language and so forth.”

It wasn’t a small program. In its heyday from the 1980s to the early 2000s, the six-week cultural and language tour lured more than 1,000 overseas Taiwanese and Chinese to Taiwan every summer — including Soe, a Chinese-American who participated in 1982. The tour earned its moniker as it became a hotbed for romance and hookups, and parents would pay for the trip in the hope that their children would find a fellow Chinese or Taiwanese spouse.

“It worked for a lot of people, apparently,” Soe says.

The “Love Boat” experience stuck with Soe, who is now a professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University, so much so that she made a documentary about it. It turns out, many alumni — including several couples who met through the Love Boat — could not forget about it either, contacting Soe and eager to share their memories.

Love Boat: Taiwan made its world premiere on Saturday at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival and will be debuting in Asia on May 26 as the closing film for the Urban Nomad Film Festival. Now in its 18th year, the festival kicks on Saturday and ends on May 27. The festival will show 25 feature films, 22 shorts and eight indie band music videos as well as a number of talks, concerts and special events. Many of the films are music focused because one festival theme explores the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, while others look at the latest developments in technology, art, culture and human behavior.


What: Urban Nomad Film Festival

When: Saturday to May 27

Where: Main screenings at Wonderful Theater (真善美劇院), 7F, 116 Hanzhong St, Taipei City (台北市漢中街116號7樓); check program for other locations

Admission: NT$240 general admission, NT$200 advance before May 15. Tickets available at, the venue and also at convenience store kiosks

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Launched as Taiwan’s international status plummeted in the late 1960s, Soe says it was one of the first instances of the government using soft power to gain support — something it is still doing today. The political climate has greatly changed, and while both Chinese and Taiwanese-Americans identified as Chinese back then, that’s no longer the case. Soe’s mother’s family was active with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) before they migrated to the US, enabling Soe to visit that summer despite having no ties to the country. Plus, there was no such program in China anyway.

“Did I go on the trip because I was already interested in Asian culture, or was it the other way around?” Soe muses. “It’s hard to say, but for a lot of people it was the first time they thought about Asia and have since been continuously interested in it.”

Due to the complicated nuances of this political background — some in the documentary will say they’re learning Chinese culture, others will say Taiwanese — and the political undertones of the Love Boat, Soe is a bit nervous to show the film in Taiwan.

“We touch on the history a little bit to acknowledge that there’s some complexity there,” she says. “I hope [the audience] cuts me some slack. With a film this length [at 65 minutes], you can’t go into too much detail as you have to keep the audience interested.”

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