One Child Nation (2019)
IMDb rating: 7.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 98%
Chinese-born filmmakers Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang explore the devastating consequences of China’s one-child policy, a grand social experiment that shaped Chinese society in traumatic ways, through a series of bleak and haunting interviews.
Some background: from 1979 to 2015, families in China were mandated by law to only have one child. The law emerged in an effort to combat overpopulation, and propaganda to adhere to the limit was widespread and pervasive.
As Rolling Stone writes, “documentarian Nanfu Wang remembers seeing the put-on-a-happy-face propaganda that trumpeted how it was every citizen’s duty to adhere to this rule on TV shows, posters, playing cards, matchbooks, snack boxes — the message was everywhere you looked. Population control was the name of the game. So was forced sterilization, infanticide and mandated abortions. Punishment was severe if you did not stick to the plan.”
In 2015, the law was revised, allowing families to have two children – and no more – but the collective trauma suffered during the 26 years when the law was in force, described as China’s “population war against its own people”, still casts a long shadow over those living in China today.
This is not an easy watch, warns Rolling Stone: “It’s this accumulation of stories small and large, personal and communal, that makes this documentary more than a dispassionate dispatch on a part of China’s history. It’s closer to a prosecutor gathering evidence and presenting a comprehensive case to a jury.”
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