Becoming a parent is a lifelong dream for many people around the world. The hope to have and raise a child of their own is what drives millions of people every day. Having a child is perhaps one of the most natural yet life-altering decisions a person can make.
So what would a world be like when your ability to have a child is restricted? It's a chilling thought, but for the people of China, it’s a reality.
"One Child Nation" is a documentary, directed by Nanfu Wang and Lynn Zhang, that explores the history and long-term effects of China's one-child policy. The policy, enacted by the communist party, was put in place in the late 1970s as an attempt to slow the population growth of the country, which is the most populated on the planet. "One Child Nation" details the emotional and physical trauma that millions of Chinese citizens face, as well as why many still support the policy.
This film is one of the most emotional documentaries I've seen in years.
I was vaguely aware of the one-child policy, but the way in which Wang, as a woman from China, first-time mother and filmmaker, presents this information will undoubtedly make anyone pay attention and care.
Wang interviews dozens of people in China who have been impacted by the policy. This includes her own family, elders from the village she grew up in, women that were forced to have abortions and be sterilized and the doctors who had to carry out the orders of their government. Each person she talks to has their own perspective and their own pains to cope with. Wang's aunt and uncle left their firstborn daughter on a counter at a market just so they could have a son. Their daughter, who would now be in her late 20s, died when nobody picked her up.
One woman, who used to be a doctor who performed abortion procedures and sterilized women, explains how she blames herself for tens of thousands of children dying. In her guilt and old age, she decided to help women undo their sterilizations and has reversed thousands to this day.
In "One Child Nation," Wang makes the audience feel as if they are there, in China, talking to these people themselves. Her interviews are personal, yet relaxed. Wang is visiting her home and talking with people she's known her whole life. Because of this, the interviews are more so people sitting around talking with each other, rather than someone being questioned for a movie. By making everything feel so personal, the stories each interviewee tells become even more powerful.
This movie does more than just criticize the one-child policy, it explores every corner of it. It explains the motivations in enacting it, and it is able to explain the distinctive intricacies of each person's story. Incredibly, Wang is able to present all her information naturally, so it doesn't feel like an information dump. All of the information is presented in a logical way that allows the audience to follow along and understand the seriousness of the situation.
"One Child Nation" is an incredibly emotional documentary that highlights the immense pain of restricted childbirth. From beginning to end, Wang highlights the varying thoughts and perspectives about the people the one-child policy has affected most. It's full of different, equally resonant stories that will leave audiences in shock.