Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Adoptive Family Reviews of Nanfu Wang's "One Child Nation"

If you have seen the documentary, please consider submitting a review for other adoptive families. We will add new reviews to this page as they come in. 

Average Rating of all Reviews: 9.5

"One Child Nation" Review
by Susan Earl (Utah)

I grew up going to the Sundance Film Festival, but I had stopped going when it got too expensive, too crowded, and too much work. But because of my interest in International Chinese Adoption, one film this year did catch my attention, Nanfu Wang’s “One Child Nation.” My husband and I adopted a little girl from China in 2006 when she was barely one year old. I was so thrilled to see that “One Child Nation” had won the US Grand Jury Prize for Documentary, and would be featured at the Best of the Fest, and I got an e-waitlist number of 57!

I had often felt thankful for China’s One Child Policy because it allowed me to be a mom to the most beautiful and lovely girl in the whole world. She is my Sun and my life revolves around her. I thought I understood China’s One Child Policy. It was a choice that Chinese People made in order to better their lives. I knew that they could choose abortion, they could leave their baby girl in a very safe place, or they could pay a fine if they had another baby. But I guess I forgot that it was China.

I was mostly looking forward to seeing more of China and learning more history, and was pleased to see that Nanfu Wang’s home village was in the Province of Jiangxi, which is also the Province of my daughter’s birth. Nanfu Wang was familiar with the One Child Policy Propaganda; she sang the songs and saw the performances on television. But after moving to the US, and giving birth to her first child, a boy, she wanted to return to her village and learn more about the One Child Policy.

In interviewing village leaders, midwives, and her own family members, she learned about forced abortions and forced sterilizations, babies deserted in markets and covered in flies and maggots, dead fetuses in garbage bags littered throughout garbage dumps, and even extortion by Family Planning Officials. Then in 1992 when international adoption became available in China, Human Traffickers were even introduced. What was happening? This wasn’t how I understood Chinese Adoption. I was feeling as shocked as Nanfu Wang, and even a little uncomfortable thinking I had financially supported this demand for human trafficking. I realized that this was a very personal documentary for Nanfu Wang, and for me, too.

And then Lehi, Utah appeared on the screen, and there was an audible gasp from the audience, but, after all, we were in Utah. And I was watching Brian Stuy and his wife, LongLan, who I had met at several local “Families with Children from China” (FCC) events, along with their 3 daughters who were also adopted from China. I learned more about “Research-China”, the company owned and operated by the Stuy family which was created in response to the Stuys’ daughter’s hope of learning more about her biological family, and then, consequently, being able to offer other parents information about their child’s early story to help “develop a secure sense of self as they grow up.”

In Brian’s interview, he reviewed the many common birth stories that are shared with adoptive families, like, “Your daughter was found at the police station, or at a busy market, or at a beautiful park, or on the front steps of the orphanage.” Wait a minute, that’s my daughter’s Birth Story! You mean it’s not true? I had discovered that the orphanage did lie about my daughter’s vaccination record, after completing her blood work, so I guess they could lie about other things, too.

Nanfu Wang is happy that she has a brother, although her parents had to fight sterilization and then wait 5 years before he could be born legally. Even her brother acknowledges that an empty basket was waiting at his birth, and he would have been placed in it and taken away if he had been born a girl.

When I arrive home from the movie, I wasn’t sure how I would explain it to my daughter. But since all we do is talk, I immediately told her all about it. She didn’t seem too shocked. When I asked if she’d like to find her birth family, she said, “You can do that with DNA.” I asked if she’d like to meet her birth family, and in her pragmatic way, she said “Yes I would meet them, but I wouldn’t love them.”

Nanfu Wang wants to document history because people should not forget their history. The One Child Policy ended in 2015, and Nanfu Wang wants people to remember its terrible impact on China. The truth is that the Chinese People never felt like they any kind of Choice in the matter at all. I know that people can learn from history, but from what I observe in my own Country today, I don’t know that people really like to learn from their past. It’s probably the same way in China.

Reviewer Rating: 8


Mae, a 24-year old adoptee from Zhuzhou, Hunan, wrote this review of the film:
I think that "One Child Nation" does an amazing job at showing the history of the One Child Policy that I had no idea existed and the harsh climate that all Chinese people were living in, but I really wish they had more stories of people like me who have been impacted by this policy. I know they did not have a lot of time and covered so much material, but I think that focusing on the families in China was a really amazing perspective I never knew. This movie shows how China controlled the narrative when it came to all international adoptions. They knew parents like you, and mine, probably did not know Chinese and completely controlled the system and took advantage of that. The whole human trafficking component and abduction of children was such a shock to me and just shows how negatively this law impacted the Chinese people. I hope this movie becomes mainstream because more people need to know the atrocities that China committed.

I am really happy that your organization Research China was featured because I never thought I would be able to find my birth family but maybe now it’s possible. I could really talk about this movie at length, but after seeing the pain these families had when talking about having to give up their baby really made me imagine my own birth family. I knew that they may have not had a choice, but I did not know how dire the situation was for them so I really hope my family can find out that I am a happy and successful person because of them. 
Reviewer Rating: 10


Barbara Osborn wrote this review after seeing the documentary last Friday in Los Angeles:

Johnnie and I saw One Child Nation last night. I loved seeing you and the girls. It was a theater full of Chinese young people. Not adoptive families. Not Chinese adoptees. The film attracted young Chinese people living, at least temporarily, in the US and they are clearly struggling, bravely, with their understanding of the Chinese government and its history over the last 70 years. I would be proud of American young people who engaged in the same kind of internal struggle as openly as the audience did tonight! 

The film reminded me of the very first adoption informational Johnnie and I went to, nearly 15 years ago. The woman leading it said that international adoption was stepping on a moving train, that you stepped on at one station and geopolitical dynamics could take you to another. 

What I didn’t realize at the time is that meant that international adoption was also likely to take us into morally ambiguous territory, not because we were bad or stupid people, but because we couldn’t know everything we would eventually know when we hopped on the train. It’s now one of the first things I tell people who are considering international adoption. International adoption: Morally ambiguous. 

I liked the film a lot (I think more than Johnnie), because it depicted the moral ambiguity of those who forced women to abort or be sterilized, those who “rescued” abandoned children at the side of the road in the 90s which led to a lucrative marketplace by 2000, parents and children like Johnnie and me and Zoee trying to manage the moral obligation of birth and adoptive parenting, and to you two, and the brave research you have done for all these years which has required you to manage your responsibility to Chinese birth parents, and adoptees and their loving adoptive parents in the US and elsewhere.  That is an emotional burden that I’ve often wondered how you carry. I thought the film captured very well that web of obligation that you respectfully navigate each day between birth parents’ yearning, adoptees’ desire for a simple story, and adoptee parents’ fear of losing the dearest thing in their lives. It made me deeply appreciative of your work and your strength. 

Reviewer Rating: 10


The following review was written by a prominent member of the Chinese adoption community, Wendy Mailman:

I remember it like it was yesterday. It was the summer of 2009, when I read an article in the Chinese press, which was then translated into English by Research-China.Org, about family planning officials in my daughter’s town of Zhenyuan, Guizhou Province, taking overquota girls from their birth families and placing them in the local orphanage for international adoption. I wasn’t surprised by the article because for years, I was suspicious of my daughter’s finding information, ever since a Chinese friend living in the US, around 2008, had seen my daughter’s finding ad and those of the other 9 children from the same SWI published altogether and told me: “I don’t believe any of these ads, because all 10 ads seemed too similar to be believable.” This led me to purchase the Birth Family Search Analysis from Research-China in 2009, which contained a link to a man posting on a Chinese online forum, complaining about Family Planning in this area taking children from his relatives.

My Chinese friend contacted the man and he got Chinese reporters involved, who interviewed me for a news story. I never thought in a million years that the Chinese censors would allow the Chinese reporters to publish this scandal, blatantly slamming the notion that these children were “abandoned,” and so the only thing I was shocked about when I read the article was that it had actually gotten published in China. But this was an article in Chinese that the vast majority of Western adoptive parents of children from China would never see. Shortly thereafter, an American reporter based in China, Barbara Demick, writing for the LA Times, followed up on the story about Zhenyuan and also reported the same thing happening in a much larger SWI in Hunan province, Shaoyang. This story was in English and in the US press, but since I don’t live on the West Coast where the LA Times is read, no one I knew seemed to know anything about it. But I thought to myself, “The day of reckoning is coming. Someday all this fraud and lies we adoptive parents have been fed about our children's pasts in China are going to come out and it won’t be pretty.” Well, I guess that moment is here with the release of Nanfu Wang’s documentary, “One Child Nation.”

“One Child Nation” is a documentary that I believe every adoptive parent of a child from China and every adult adoptee from China should view, especially if one truly wants to understand what was going on in China at the time that Chinese birth parents relinquished or became separated from their child. The film was amazing. The cinematography was gorgeous; I thought the individual stories were well explained, although I knew about many of them beforehand and hearing all of various stories made you realize how traumatic, destructive and truly inhumane the one child policy was. Everyone interviewed is deeply scarred from this policy and I thought the director did an excellent job of portraying the emotional toll the one child policy took on everyone interviewed, even for people who had to carry out the policy like the village leader, and the healthcare worker who had to perform abortions; you could even see how emotionally devastated they were, decades later, for carrying out the policy. Nanfu was very courageous to make this movie but I also believe everyone who was interviewed and so honest, was equally courageous, including Brian and Lan Stuy who took a lot of flack from some adoptive parents. But for Nanfu to get all these people to talk so openly and honestly with her, was truly amazing. The one big thing I did learn is when Wang was interviewing the trafficker from the Duan family, he admitted he started trafficking children quite early in the adoption program; he stated 1992, which was the year that China implemented a law allowing foreigners to adopt its “orphans.” So the traffickers were there from the very beginning of international adoptions from China. His numbers were much higher than anything I heard before; I believe he mentioned 10,000 children he trafficked. Wang had to repeat this number several times, as if she seemed to not be able to grasp the enormity of his trafficking. Multiply that by other traffickers and you have a significant number of children who were internationally adopted from China, who were trafficked from one area to another.

Wang does an excellent job demonstrating the vast propaganda that went on during the time she grew up in China in the 1980’s and 1990’s, encouraging (or demanding?) families to have just one child, which was so pervasive that it was just part of life and assumed to be normal. It is only after she moves to the West that she can start to understand the propaganda she grew up with. This got me thinking about all the “propaganda” we adoptive parents were fed about the China adoption program throughout the years by our adoption agencies; such as how “transparent” the China program was, how all these children were “abandoned” when there is now overwhelming evidence that this is not necessarily true, etc. So in the end, I wonder who was really brainwashed; the Chinese people about the virtues of the one child policy or the Western adoptive parents about how ethical the China adoption program was.

Reviewer Rating: 10


The following review was submitted by Evan:

One Child Nation is a moving and important film.  The filmmaker takes you through the history and the effects of China’s one-child policy.  The film interviews people who were involved in carrying out the policy, from a midwife that performed thousands of abortions and sterilizations to village officials who abducted babies from families.  Their stories were horrifying.  The film also interviewed families impacted by this strict policy, including the filmmaker’s uncle who left his daughter to die out in the open.  Learning how babies were left to die was heart-breaking.  The film went on to interview someone imprisoned for human trafficking (selling abandoned babies to orphanages). 

I was riveted for 85 minutes, thinking about how this profoundly impacted the Chinese culture and so many families.  Through the work of the organization, Research-China, we learned many of the stories of babies being abandoned and found were simply not true.  Instead, oftentimes planning officials would take babies from the arms of their parents and bring them to an orphanage.  This was gut-wrenching especially as we have adopted a baby from China.  While many of us who adopted may never know the exact circumstances involving our babies, the fact that our babies could have been physically taken out of their home is so sad and incredibly emotional.

This film is an absolute must-see, even for families who are not involved in adoption.

Reviewer Rating: 10

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