R.J. Lozada, Revelle ’04, is a 32-year old filmmaker and a father. But he’s not a father. At least, that’s how he sees it, considering he’s a sperm donor to a baby that he may never see or speak to.
As the San Diego Asian Film Festival (SDAFF) kicks off its 16th year this week, Lozada will be preparing for the premiere of his new autobiographical short film, Distance Between. The documentary short chronicles the unusual circumstances of his quasi-fatherhood, as he became somewhat of a saving grace for a lesbian couple desperately searching for a way to start a family.
After being blindsided at the finish line by a potential sperm donor and finding little to no luck with the sperm bank route, the couple turned to Lozada, a work colleague, in February 2014. “It happened through email—a kind of vaguely-worded email about an important conversation that needed to happen, and a request,” Lozada recalls.
A few months later, Lozada officially signed contracts to donate to the couple under the agreement to have zero ties with the child even in the most extreme circumstances. “Basically what it came down to is only if the kid is deeply curious about who the father is, then that kid’s well-being and their rights dictate he or she would be allowed to begin a relationship with me,” Lozada explains.
The set of terms were both incredibly simple, yet perhaps unforeseeably severe. Lozada himself was taken aback with the reality of implications when he met with a counselor at the fertility clinic to outline the situation, a moment not captured in the film. “Going into that process, I thought I had an idea of how I felt,” Lozada admits. “I built this kind of intellectual and emotional fortress within myself where I was convinced that this would be okay.
Perhaps this uncertainty is why Distance Between appears as much a search for closure for Lozada himself as it is a last-ditch effort to put a word in on a prematurely long-lost parentage. As he captures sequences of his own family, probing them of their history, particularly his relationship with his father, Lozada also narrates a lesson in Tagalog to the unborn. In an ironic portrait of paternity, Lozada attempts to connect with his own father as he attempts to be a father himself, even an absent one in the smallest of capacities available to him. In weaving these generational fragments together, Lozada crafts both an intimate message and a self-examination of heritage, family, and home. “The film is as much to that kid, about that kid, as it is about me and my need to connect with my father and explore that relationship,” Lozada says. “It’s a letter to the child, but it’s also a testament to my family and our heritage. The intention is to leave something behind for this kid, whomever this kid may be, to hold onto and to have.”
Distance Between is in many ways a San Diego film. Shot in San Diego by and about a native of the city, it is only appropriate that the film makes its premiere at SDAFF. “It’s a great homecoming,” Lozada says.
Lozada is still working with the couple who have yet to have their first child. But if and when the baby arrives, there will always be this letter of love waiting.