One Child Nation | Chicago Reader

One Child Nation

New York-based filmmaker Nanfu Wang was born in China in 1985 during its mandated one-child policy, a stringently enforced 36-year social experiment meant to curb the nation's burgeoning population and stave off widespread famine. Wang's parents were exceptional in that they also had a son; in rural areas some families were allowed two children if the first-born was female in the hopes that the next infant would be a highly prized male. After Wang's own son was born, she journeyed back to China, baby in tow, to uncover bitter truths about the horrific practices and consequences of such state intrusion while her codirector, Jialing Zhang, remained in the U.S. to closely monitor Wang's movements via GPS in case she aroused potentially dangerous government scrutiny. The two women interviewed not only former bureaucrats, abortionists, and crusading journalists, but also Wang's own family, whose experiences during those decades included her grandfather's fight with authorities to prevent her mother being forcibly sterilized after Nanfu was born; her uncle's abandonment of a daughter in the local market; and her aunt's sale of her baby girl to a human trafficker. Some archival footage—particularly a shot of corpses of discarded female infants rotting in a public garbage dump—is gruesome, but just when you think you've seen the worst come the revelations of the corruption that mushroomed after China opened its doors in 1992 to adoptions by outsiders: the hefty fees Westerners paid orphanages (with the money trickling up and down between local civilians and officials) encouraged outright theft of babies to keep this new niche market booming. The filmmakers also follow a couple in Lehi, Utah, adoptive parents themselves, on a mission to reunite missing Chinese "orphans" with their birth parents. Not surprisingly, some adopted kids, loved by their American families, aren't interested, even if their original parents didn't give them up willingly. In English and subtitled Mandarin.

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