One Child Nation

2019 | Documentary | 89 minutes | English and Mandarin with English subtitles


Directors Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang were born during the One-Child period in China. To control the fast-growing population, the policy that limited families to one child, was enacted in 1979 and remained in force for 35 years. It was brutally enforced by the Chinese government. However, Wang confessed that  very few families protested. Many felt  the Chinese government was taking the right approach. In fact, Wang’s mother was convinced that the policy prevented massive starvation and unrest in the country.  Wang eventually went to live in the U.S. After the birth of her first child, she and fellow director Zhang decided to go to China and start interviewing everyone who was affected.  They risked much as they interviewed human traffickers, state officials, village elders, and midwives. Huaru Yuan, a midwife in Wang’s village, estimated that she performed at least 50,000 abortions and sterilizations in her 25-year career. “My hands trembled doing it, but I had no choice.”

Major Participants
Nanfu Wang / Jialing Zhang / Huaru Yuan
Why Stream This Film?
Would it ever occur to anyone that a major country would pass a law limiting families to one child? And brutally enforce that law? Director Nanfu Wang, born during this One-Child period in China, moved to the United States. After the birth of her first child, Wang returned to China to explore the affects the law had on the people. Together with director Jialing Zhang, who was also born during the One-Child period, they produced a riveting, disturbing film about a government’s merciless plan to control its population.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus): 99%
  • Metacritic Score: 85
  • Sundance Film Festival: Winner, Grand Jury Prize, Best Documentary
  • Gotham Independent Film Awards: Nominated, Best Documentary

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ONE CHILD NATION is a powerful, painful look at the impact of China’s One-Child policy. The individual stories that make up ONE CHILD NATION illuminate an entire history of institutional corruption, medical brutality and pervasive misogyny—a history that was both masked and advanced by a national propaganda campaign of near-Orwellian absurdity.
Justin Chang

The Los Angeles Times

China’s population control policy provokes a gripping personal and superb documentary. ONE CHILD NATION comes from filmmaker Nanfu Wang, who tells a shadowy, complex story of her family and of China’s notorious population control methods implemented in 1979 and perpetuated for 35 years. In a very full and riveting 85 minutes, ONE CHILD NATION assembles a huge story together from many small, crucial pieces.
Michael Phillips

The Chicago Tribune

ONE CHILD NATION is a shattering investigation of the policy’s sinister ripple-effect consequences and its countless tragic victims. Densely informative yet always grounded in deep personal investment and clear compassion, this is a powerful indictment of a traumatic social experiment, made all the more startling by the success of the propaganda machine in making people believe it was necessary.
David Rooney

The Hollywood Reporter

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