Valerie Soe is an American writer and experimental videomaker of Asian descent. Her work’s main focus is on the perception of Asians in American culture. Her film “All Orientals Look the Same” won the Best International Video award at the Torino International Festival of Young Cinema in 1987. This year she comes back with her new documentary – “Love Boat”.

Love Boat: Taiwan” is screening at Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival

The Overseas Compatriot Youth Formosa Study Tour to Taiwan, better known as Love Boat, is a summer program for young people of Taiwanese descent. It first started in 1976 as part of a project run together with China Youth Corpus. Love Boat was created to gather Overseas Taiwanese (mostly from Canada and USA) and acquaint them with Chinese culture and language. However, it quickly turned out that youngsters were interested in partying and drinking rather than attending lectures – and that is where the “Love Boat” name came from.

Apart from raising cultural and historical awareness, Love Boat resulted in multiple short-lived love affairs and alcohol-related accidents, some unplanned pregnancies and even one fatal accident. That is why the project easily gained a bad name as a promiscuous and immoral one.

Soe gathers genuine film footage and intertwines it with the comments of Love Boat’s participants, creating an atmosphere of youthful unconcern. However, the audience does not receive much more than the sentimental stories about some reckless antics. What seems to be funny to hear at the beginning, over time becomes just a set of tedious anecdotes.

An incredibly engaging topic of Love Boat – one of the longest existing summer exchange programs in the world resulted in a quite dull and inexpressive documentary. However, we should undoubtedly appreciate the effort of the director, who collected long hours of footage about this unique program. Maybe one day someone will make good use out of it.