Leftover Women

Leftover Women

February 10, 2020

by

Shosh Shlam and Hilla Medalia

Three modern women search for Mr. Right before Chinese society deems them 'leftover' for putting jobs ahead of marriage.

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About the Documentary

Leftover Women follows three successful Chinese women — Qiu Hua Mei, a 34-year-old lawyer; Xu Min, 28, who works in public radio; and Gai Qi, 36, an assistant college professor in Beijing — who, despite thriving careers, are still labeled “leftover women,” or sheng nu, a derogatory term used in China to describe educated, professional women in their mid-20s and ’30s who are not married. 

With 30 million more men than women in China, a severe demographic imbalance resulting from the One-Child Policy, social stability is under threat. As single women search for “Mr. Right,” they struggle to stay true to their personal and professional ambitions, while dealing with pressure from their families, friends, and a government that launched a state-sponsored campaign to stigmatize unwed women. Though methods may differ, societal pressure for women to marry exists in every culture. From awkward singles mixers to marriage markets for parents, as well as dealing with differing views of marriage and relationships within families and from potential partners, the struggle for these women to find true love and true happiness seems more elusive than ever.

The Filmmakers

Shosh Shlam

Shosh Shlam's Last Journey into Silence (2003) won Best Documentary at the Lublin Film Festival. Her next film, Be Fruitful and Multiply (2005), broadcast on Channel 2 in Israel, ZDF and other European TV channels. Good Garbage (2008) won Best Documentary at the Shanghai Film Festival in China, FICA Film Festival in Brazil, while Web Junkie won Best Documentary Honorable Mention at the Jerusalem Film Festival and Best Documentary in TRT Turkey. It premiered at Sundance Film Festival (2014) and was theatrically released in NY, LA, and Toronto, while airing on BBC, ARTE, PBS and on many other networks. Shosh holds an MA in Comparative Literature from Bar Ilan University. She also graduated from the Theatre Department at Tel Aviv University, and studied at New York’s School of Visual Arts.

Hilla Medalia

Hilla Medalia is a Peabody Award-winning filmmaker and producer who has also received three Emmy® nominations. Her projects have garnered critical acclaim and screened internationally in theaters and on television including HBO, MTV, BBC and ARTE. Her range of titles include To Die in Jerusalem (2007; HBO), After the Storm (2009; MTV), Numbered (2012; ARTE), Dancing in Jaffa (2013; Tribeca, IFC Sundance selects), Web Junkie (2014; Sundance Film Festival, POV, BBC), The Go-Go Boys (2014; Cannes Film Festival), Censored Voices (2015; Sundance Film Festival and Berlinale), Muhi - Generally Temporary (2017; San Francisco Film Festival, Hot Docs), and The Oslo Diaries (2018; Sundance, HBO). Hilla is a board member of The Israeli Director's Guild and a member of the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science. Hilla holds an M.A. from Southern Illinois University.

Full Credits

Awards

  • PHILADELPHIA FILM FESTIVAL

    Documentary Feature Award & Jury Award

  • DOCAVIV FILM FESTIVAL

    Best Director Award

  • TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL

    Best Documentary Feature (Nominee)

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Join the Discussion

What do you relate to about the stories of these single women in China? Are there ways that Western society puts pressure on unmarried women that are similar to China?

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