Everyday Activist - One Child Nation | Sister (Oscars 2020)

Posted on Tuesday, January 07, 2020 at 08:00 PM

One Child Nation | Sister (Oscars 2020)

Movie Review by Everyday Activist X CalgaryMovies.com

Both films, by directors who were born in China but now live in the United States, discuss China’s One Child Policy. I had no interest in watching Nanfu Wang’s feature documentary, One Child Nation until I watched Siqi Song’s animated short, Sister. Unlike most of their peers, they are from a two child family. Sister provided a way for Song to describe to her friends what having a sibling was like from the perspective of an older brother, while One Child Nation, available on Amazon Prime, gives Wang a platform to bear witness to the scars infanticide leaves on generations of Chinese.

Wang focuses on her family trauma, expanding on the infanticide, abortions, forced sterilization and trafficking of mostly females from her parents’ and grandparents' generation, rather than exploring the consequences of the One Child Policy on hers. Gender discrimination causes problems not only for the Chinese, but internationally. According to Human Rights Watch, poor, vulnerable women from countries neighboring China are trafficked, often repeatedly raped until they bear a child. Then they might be free to leave without their children. Wang need not worry that anyone will forget China’s One Child Policy.

In eight minutes, Song’s low budget, student project, takes us back to childhood, reminding us what young siblings are like. I fondly remember “Claymation” of the 1990s and the National Film Board (NFB) still has stop motion animated films, though I don’t remember seeing much done with wool. Song’s choice of material for her puppets gives the film added warmth of a family. Filming in black and white with spot colour relates to childhood memories, as we don’t always remember everything, but every now and then certain details bring the memory into the present. When Song fully immerses us in her quirky story, she turns the tables causing us to ponder the reliability of memory and the effect China’s One Child Policy had on children never had siblings. Having seen seven of the ten Oscars 2020 shortlisted animated shorts, two from (NFB), I expect this one to move onto the next round.

At the end of One Child Nation, Wang briefly mentions that the US government has the opposite policy preferring to deny abortions in a country where more women die in childbirth than in any other developed country. While the methods of controlling reproduction in China and the US vary, the gender violence is the same. Having a documentary examine this particular issue in both countries would have made a more relevant film. Margaret Atwood had plenty of material for A Handmaid’s Tale, given the political context of women’s reproductive rights in the 1980s when the book was published. Nearly forty years later, not much progress has been made towards a more equitable society for women to choose their own path for their bodies.  

Calgary Showtimes: One Child Nation > | Sister >


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