ONE CHILD NATION – Review by Liz Whittemore

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From 1979 to 2015 a Chinese Communist Party constitutional amendment stated that each family was only allowed to have one child. The indoctrination of this policy permeated filmmaker Nanfu Wang’s childhood. There were official governmental positions in creating One-Child policy propaganda. Forced sterilization was the consequence for refusal to comply.

The village midwife that delivered Nanfu recalls performing between 50,000 to 60,000 abortions over a 20 year period as a doctor. That’s one woman in one small rural village. Women were kidnapped and forcefully sterilized by the government. Not just sterilized, but 8 to 9 month pregnant mother’s had their unborn babies killed. Today, she helps families experiencing infertility. Once again, she brings life into the world, making amends.

Even though the policy is technically “over”, the idea is still alive and well in modern Chinese culture. Family Planners were brainwashed into thinking they were “Fighting a Population War.” While I am an advocate for a woman’s right to choose, these women had their rights violently taken from them.

The culture of male worship makes being a girl in China even worse. Nanfu’s own mother’s name roughly translates to “we’ll try for a younger brother next”. Nanfu finds out that her baby cousin was given away by her uncle and mother; left at a market with $20 attached to her. No one took her. She died after two days.

One generation removed still strongly believes that the country would starve and collapse if the families continue to have more than one child. This isn’t the only family member who commits an absolutely atrocious act to unburden themselves of a baby girl. Human trafficking played a huge role in the discarding of babies, as well. Selling babies to orphanages for international adoption. What happened to all these children? Their histories have all been fabricated. China is complicit in nationwide fraud and brainwashing of its citizens. Nanfu will never be able to screen this film in her homeland.

Comprised solely of intimate first hand accounts and actual government made propaganda, One Child Nation will undoubtedly tap into your soul. If you are a mother, it will offend your understanding of the world. How can government care so little for the lives of its own citizens? Then you think of the state our country is currently in and you aren’t as surprised. Using logic to suss out the way men in power think is a waste of energy. Fighting back, telling stories is what brings enlightenment to the ignorant and empowers progressive change. One Child Nation shows us how great filmmaking can educate a new generation. You can’t rewrite history but you can prevent it from ever happening again.

EDITOR’S NOTE: One Child Nation is AWFJ’s Movie of the Week for August 16, 2019

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Liz Whittemore

Liz Whittemore is the author of AWFJ's I SCREAM YOU SCREAM blog. She is Co-Managing Editor and writes for, hosts the podcast Girls On Film and is a contributing writer for and The ArtsWireWeekly. Now New York-based, she was born and raised in northern Connecticut. She's a graduate of The American Musical & Dramatic Academy, and has performed at Disneyland and famed Hartford Children's Theater, and been a member of NYC's Boomerang Theater, Connecticut's Simsbury Summer Theater, Virginia's Offstage Theatre, where she also directed. Her film credits include Suburban Skies and Surrender. In 2008, she shot Jabberwocky, a documentary now in post-production. Liz is still a children's theatre director and choreographer. She's working on an updated adaptation of Romeo and Juliet and a series of children's books.