May 13, 2019

SCREEN | Growing Up in a 'One Child Nation' x DOXA 2019

DOXA 2019 | Nanfu Wang Jialing Zhang | One Child Nation

China's notorious and sweeping one-child policy (1979–2015) is widely considered to be one of human history's most consequential acts of social engineering—and as such, it's more than deserving of its documentary feature. Co-directors Nanfu Wang, who is the film's primary on-camera subject, and Jialing Zhang examine the policy's sordid history within the context of Wang's own personal experiences and family involvement in One Child Nation.

It's a devastating film that dissects the very real human cost and underlying social consequences of enforcing such rigid population control in a closed society that's also so hyper-focused on family obligations. Wang, a new mother herself who was born in the thick of the policy but moved to the US as an adult, thoroughly explores her own family's historical culpability.

Wang and Zhang focus down the massive topic into easy chunks through candid interviews with the former's closest relatives, other essential figures, propaganda materials, and pulls no punches on the terrifying societal results. Wang's story and historical presentation of a lost generation make for one of the more compelling recent documentary subjects.

How One Child Nation delves into the horrifying realities of the government-mandated "family planning" is truly compelling. Wang contrasts this with the general acceptance—despite much public resistance—of its enforcement with the innocence of children. Its harrowing investigation of the true social devastation of preventing an estimated four hundred million births in exchange for economic development is riveting and powerful.

One Child Nation screened at the 2019 DOXA Documentary Film Festival as part of the Justice Forum program in partnership with the Vancouver Asian Film Festival.

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