Nanfu Wang is a Chinese-born American filmmaker. Her latest film “One Child Nation” was nominated for Best Documentary at the 2019 IFP Gotham Awards this week.
Film Synopsis: China’s One Child Policy, an extreme population control measure that made it illegal for couples to have more than one child, may have ended in 2015, but the process of dealing with the trauma of its brutal enforcement is only just beginning. The film explores the ripple effect of this devastating social experiment, uncovering one shocking human rights violation after another – from abandoned newborns, to forced sterilizations and abortions, and government abductions. Wang digs fearlessly into her own personal life, weaving her experience as a new mother and the firsthand accounts of her family members into archival propaganda material and testimony from victims and perpetrators alike, yielding a revelatory and essential record of this chilling, unprecedented moment in human civilization.
The Knockturnal: What inspired you to make this film?
Nanfu Wang: One Child Nation is about China’s one child policy and I was born in China during the policy and growing up I lived a life where there was a lot of a propaganda about how positive this policy was, and I never questioned it until I came here and I was pregnant with my own child. So really becoming a mother motivated me to look into the policy and find out what really happened and what I discovered was horrifying and shocking. So I wanted to make this documentary as a record of what had happened to people.
The Knockturnal: Did you have any fears or concerns going into the project?
Nanfu Wang: Not really because I knew how the government would react and I knew that there might be repercussions, but I also knew if no one has documented this or tried to do this, the consequences would be much, much, much worse. It’s not an individual, not a personal thing, it’s the entire country, a national part of the history that got lost and I know a lot of activists and people who I admire who are brave enough that they are doing similar kinds of work within China and then I’m here and I have the privilege of not having to face whatever persecution that people might have in China. So I just wanted to be responsible for this.
The Knockturnal: Were people reluctant to speak with you?
Nanfu Wang: Oftentimes, there are different reasons people are reluctant. What surprised me most was actually we interviewed a few American citizens and they were afraid to participate in a film that’s critical about the Chinese government because they were afraid that they will be punished and not be able to go to China anymore and the self-censorship really surprised me and alarmed me how influential China has become that even people here tend to self-censor.
The Premier Sponsor of the 2019 IFP Gotham Awards is The New York Times, and the Philanthropic Supporter is The Rockefeller Foundation. The Official Water Partner is FIJI Water, the Official Airline Partner is JetBlue, the Official Wine Partner is Robert Hall Winery and the Official Auto Partner is Cadillac.