Capsule Review – One Child Nation (Sydney Film Fest 2019)


Imagine my utmost surprise when I heard that co-director Wang Nanfu had returned to China after her harrowing documentary, Hooligan Sparrow. The footage and revelations that she captured in that film were so shocking, that how she was able to go back to China for One Child Nation is quite a feat. Nevertheless, she is back and once again and she brings her fly-on-the-wall documentary filmmaking (with co-director Zhang Jialing) to the test. This time, it is about the history of the One Child Policy in China, and wow, what an indictment she has made here.

Wang’s filmmaking has improved immensely since the time of Sparrow, in that the footage she captures is much more clearer, the editing is much smoother and the balance between both sides of the coin is more defined. Through investigative reporting and personal thoughts, we hear both sides of who approves and detests the policy, the ramifications of said policy and how it affects, not only the people of China, but people around the world as well. Moments of absurdity amuse as the documentary explores the levels of propaganda implemented to enforce the policy; but as the film goes deeper, we see the consequences of the actions of people in an uncompromising fashion, that Wang does not hold back.

But much like the history of the policy itself, One Child Nation is not easy to forget and it is a startling reminder of China’s dark history, the trauma of the people, an indictment of a nation’s treatment of women and both Wang and Zhang’s stellar filmmaking. I can’t wait to see what they both come up with next.


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