Hot Docs review: One Child Nation

Sundance-winning film impressively draws upon several documentary techniques to powerfully capture the impact of intergenerational trauma


ONE CHILD NATION (Nanfu Wang, Jialing Zhang, U.S.). 89 minutes. Rating: NNNN


It’s not surprising this film about China’s one-child policy won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance directors Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang impressively draw upon several documentary techniques – personal reflection, investigative thriller, social history – to convey the myriad shocking outcomes of the government-mandated birth control policy.

Wang narrates and appears on camera throughout, framing the film with her own family experience and personal complicity as someone who participated in propaganda. She visits a top government official, a midwife, village officials, an artist, human traffickers and an intrepid American couple who track down children sold into the international adoption market.

What she uncovers is horrifying. But by always orienting herself on-camera in key scenes, Wang’s experience powerfully suggests the far-reaching impact of larger collective, intergenerational trauma that is almost too heartbreaking to fathom.

May 1, 6:30 pm, Isabel Bader May 3, 1 pm, TIFF 1

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