The Filipino American womxn lead film Loreen’s Gotta Boogie has been going around the film festival circuit recently from Newark International Film Festival, Lights On Festival, MECCAcon International Film Festival, and screenings at the International Black Film Festival on October 6 in Nashville, Tennessee. The film also won the Audience Choice Award at the International Black Film Festival in Nashville!
Lead actress Jowin Batoon, known for her role as Loreen recently received the top award for best actress in a short film at the Newark International Film Festival. Her character introduced us to the challenges of stereotypical nuances relating to Asian identities in this dance-short set in Los Angeles back in the ‘70s.
Directed by Bobby Yan, a New York City veteran of the television and music video industry, the show centers on Loreen, a girl who wants to pursue her passion for dancing and truly is beautiful and is talented at funk, disco dance even though her Filipino roots and external environment stood against that path.
Bobby tells us, “Speaking as a fellow Asian American who is Pan Asian (I am of Chinese descent), I can totally relate to her and her family dynamic. I was raised under the same familial structure with my parents urging me to follow a path in science or math. As the black sheep of my family, I was always into music and art as a child. All were highly discouraged by my family. It was not until I got older that they finally acknowledged my passion and talents and began to support me. Today, my mom is my biggest cheerleader. Thus, this story was something that I could totally relate with in more ways than one.”
Likewise, given and shown from the get-go, when Loreen failed her Biochemistry course in college, she is forced to move to her home country by her parents, but her life consequently changes when she joined an audition with her best friend Loretta, a talented actress and writer of the film itself, Chantal Maurice.
Filled with bold colors, patterns, shapes, and detailed prints, the show encapsulates the essence of escapism in the disco, jazz, funk club scene. Moving forward the premise of the lead actor’s big dream of dancing on Soul Train she meets Sheryl, Soul Train dancing diva, who she went head to head on the audition where the hard edge of life and realities of being Asian blending in with African-American dominated community comes in.
“The film is the brainchild of the talented Chantal (who plays Loretta). She wanted to write a film that crosses cultural boundaries and bridges people together, especially in light of today’s times. She asked me if I wanted to come on board to direct and of course, I said yes! On a larger historical note, she was quite influenced by the original Asian Soul Train dancers from the 70s, Cheryl Song, when she wrote the film. Although our story is fictional, she based the idea of what life would have been like for Cheryl growing up in the 70s as an Asian American who followed her dreams while interacting and interfacing within African American life and culture and the impact it may have had with her personal and family life,” the director continues.
True enough, Loreen’s Gotta Boogie did significantly become a subtle referendum on Asian vs. African-American tropes and divides. Nonetheless, the conflict we see later inevitably blows up in Sheryl’s face after all since the spotlight, predictably, is given to Loreen who embodies a tough driven womxn.
“Belong? Look around.. Do you see anyone here who looks like you? No. Have you seen any dancers on the show who looks like you? No. You ain’t one of us and you will never be,” these hard-hitting lines struck a chord the groovy-tuned short. In essence, it fully embraced this element casting a larger ensemble of African-Americans who looked, dressed and moved alike which is a pretty realistic assessment of the typical groups in a dance hall in the 1970s.
Full of energy and impact, the smooth disco moves from beginning to end to flourish the film. With strikingly prevalent visuals and music inspiration from its era alongside an incredibly diverse cast and crew, Loreen’s dreaming of moving up in the world of dancing and trying hard to make it despite the lack of support from her family and discrimination packs a simple but powerful message of hope and never giving up on one’s dreams.
It leaves a heartwarming message about the power of dance, “It does not discriminate.” That everyone has the ability to move and dance regardless of identity and other things.
Yan added, “What I hope for young people to take away from this is to fully express who they are. Follow their passion no matter whether it’s in the arts, science or any other path. We must live our lives in our truth and live it fully. Life is too short to not do so. We must not be afraid to make mistakes, as those mistakes will only make us stronger and better. Follow your gut. It will always guide you in the right direction.”
The biggest win in Loreen’s Gotta Boogie is the presence of so many POC actors that stars on it. Bobby and Chantal did a proper job showing that minorities supporting one another despite gaps is empowering more than anything else, particularly in the final dance scene which blends everyone beautifully.
Wrapping it up Bobby left a generous note, “My whole career in filmmaking has been a beautiful product of diversity since day one. It was never a mandate for me as much as a natural evolution of keeping fellow creatives around me that wanted to learn and grow in the arts. With that being said, people of color need to know what jobs are available to them on the whole creative and technical spectrum of film and tv production. I think the youth need to know what’s out there. There are so many great jobs in production available to learn and make a great living out of. Reflectively, if my career and life can be a good example for others like myself (esp. as an Asian American in the arts) who pursues his dreams and I can help others find and follow theirs, then I feel like I’ve served my purpose.”