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American Women's Club of Hamburg

ONE CHILD NATION - film review

Nanfu Wang, Jialing Zhang, China/USA

In 1979 China began the policy of limiting one child per family. In 1982 it was made official. There were some exceptions, for example a rural family with a daughter could, after a five-year wait, try again for a son. Director Nanfu Wang comes from this kind of a family; a first daughter, she also has a brother. She immigrated to the United States, and now, after having a child of her own, she returned to interview family members about this policy. She talked to a midwife who was responsible for sterilizations and abortions, and now, looking back with regret, attempts to make up for this work by treating infertility. Wang talked to officials of Chinese Family Planning. They see nothing wrong with their attempts to follow the law and one says, “Otherwise our country would have perished and I had to put the national interest above my personal feelings.” Wang’s friends and relatives also see no problem with having followed the propaganda of the country, saying “What could we do?” Results could have been loss of jobs, destruction of property and worse forms of punishment. Her mother still believes in the system. As a result, girl babies were often deposited in baskets and left to die in the street – or not. In many cases, people bicycled along streets, collected these babies and “sold” them to orphanages for small sums of money. The orphanages, on the other hand, were deep into big business as human traffickers, “selling” these children, many to the USA, for up to $10,000-25,000 each. Ms. Wang interviewed a couple living in the U.S., Brian and Longlan Stuy, who are helping adopted Chinese children find their birth parents. This is especially interesting in the case of twins, separated at birth.

Luckily my Chinese husband’s family lived in Indonesia, which was not confronted with these rules. His parents had 10 children, who now live around the world: in Indonesia, Germany, Singapore, Hong Kong, Canada, Australia, and the USA. ONE CHILD NATION was filmed in the US and China and made the rounds of more than 15 film festivals, including Hamburg. It won best documentary at the Sundance Film Festival. Co-director Jialing Zhang was present in Hamburg to talk about the film. She said that it will probably never show in China, although she would like to make it available for the Chinese people. She said, “If you have parents, you are not an orphan.” Neither Ms Zhang nor Ms Wang have returned to China since the film showed. The Filmfest Hamburg credits ONE CHILD NATION as being USA/Chinese, although it was financed by US sources. Otherwise there were only two Chinese films at the festival: MOSAIC PORTRAIT and LEBEN IM FUCHU GEBIRGE, which won the German film critics’ prize for best film. (BT)

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