One Child Nation

One Child Nation

About the Film

China’s one-child policy, the 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. From award-winning documentarian Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang, One Child Nation explores the ripple effects of this devastating social experiment, uncovering one shocking human rights violation after another — from abandoned newborns (almost always girls), to forced sterilizations and abortions to government abductions.  MORE

As the film unfolds, Wang, a native of China, digs fearlessly into her own personal life, weaving her experience as a new mother and the firsthand accounts of her relatives with archival propaganda material and testimony from victims and perpetrators alike, yielding a revelatory and essential record of this chilling moment in human civilization.  One Child Nation reveals how the Chinese government’s relentless campaign of propaganda brainwashed its citizens into committing unspeakable crimes and serves as a harrowing indictment of the mindset that prioritizes national agenda over human life. Featured is the midwife who delivered Nanfu and all of the babies in her village, who estimates that she performed 60,000 abortions while the policy was in effect. Most unsettling is the testimony of one of China’s most decorated family planning officials who, in clinical detail, explains how she executed her mandate. Traveling from village to village, she sterilized women and performed abortions, many on women who resisted and had to be caught and restrained. But, “If I could go back in time, I would do it again,” she says in the film.

The Filmmakers

Nanfu Wang (Director/Producer/Cinematographer/Editor) is an Emmy-nominated and Peabody Award-winning filmmaker based in New York City. Wang’s feature debut, Hooligan Sparrow, was shortlisted for the 2017 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. Since its premiere at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, it has won over 20 awards internationally including a Peabody Award, a Cinema Eye Honor award, the George Polk Award, an IDA Award, and an Independent Spirit Award. Her second feature documentary, I Am Another You, premiered at the SXSW Film Festival in 2017 where it won two special jury awards, opened theatrically in September 2017, and premiered on Independent Lens in 2018. 

Jialing Zhang (Director/Producer) is an independent filmmaker based in Beijing and Massachusetts. She is co-director and editor of Complicit, a feature documentary that follows the journey of a benzene-poisoned Chinese migrant worker who takes on the global electronic manufacturing industry. The film premiered at Human Rights Watch Film Festival in London in March 2017. Zhang also freelances as a local producer for various programs and media outlets including Vice on HBO, Fusion TV, The New York Times, and independent documentary projects. LESS

Film Credits

Directed and Produced by  
Nanfu Wang
Jialing Zhang

Produced by   
Christoph Jörg
Julie Goldman
Christopher Clements
Carolyn Hepburn
Executive Producers
Sally Jo Fifer
Lois Vossen
Ken Pelletier

Supervising Producer
Amy Shatsky

Edited by
Nanfu Wang
Cinematography by
Nanfu Wang
Yuanchen Liu

Music by
Nathan Halpern
Chris Ruggiero
Additional Filming
Ji Song
Michael Shade
Jialing Zhang
Jia Li
Mi Shen

Additional Editing
Jialing Zhang
Michael Shade

Graphic Design
Garry Waller

Creative Consultant
Peter Lucas
Story Consultant
Mark Monroe

Editing Consultants
Carol Dysinger
Jonathan Oppenheim
Christopher Seward

Digital Intermediate Colorist
Will Cox

Digital Intermediate Online Editor
Ben Kiviat

Digital Intermediate Producer
Caitlin Tartaro

Supervising Sound and Re-recording Mixer
Ron Bochar

Sound Editors
Sara Stern
Philip Stockton
Allan Zaleski
Michael Shade

Assistant Sound Editor
Sarah Streit

Subtitle Translators
Vincent (Tzu-Wen) Cheng
Kevin Lawrence

Production Assistants (China)
Chen Yang
Xue Gu

Post Production Assistants (U.S.)
Bing Wang
Mengchen Zhang
Nachiket Guttikar

Archival Research Assistants
Lei Cao
Xiaopeng Song
Rena Ekrem
Chaoyi Chen

Production Counsel
Gray Krauss Sandler Des Rochers LLP

Clearance Counsel
Donaldson + Callif LLP

Sales and Distribution
Submarine Entertainment

Ameena Din

Archival Materials Provided by
Jiaoming Pang
Zhizhu Yang
Brian Stuy and Long Lan Stuy
NBCUniversal Archives
Hongjie Ma / FOTOE
Zongjun Du / FOTOE

Original Score by Nathan Halpern and Chris Ruggiero
Courtesy of Copticon Music and Jasper vs Sanchez (ASCAP)

Commissioning Editors for WDR/ARTE: Christiane Hinz and Jutta Krug
Commissioning Editor for BBC Storyville: Mandy Chang
Assistant Commissioning Editor for BBC Storyville: Hayley Reynolds

For SVT Sveriges Television: Axel Arnö
For EO: Margje de Koning and Nathalie Windhorst
For DR Danish Broadcasting Corporation: Anders Bruus
For VGTV: Andreas Fay

Special Thanks
Hot Docs Forum

Fiscal Sponsor
Independent Filmmaker Project

Investment Support Provided by
Bruce and Vickie Heyman
Wendy Abrams
Diane Blake
Steven Cohen
Laurie David
Nina Fialkow
Susan Gerhard
Lorraine Gibson
Peter Goring
Jan Innes
Susie Kololian
Jason Delane Lee
Yvonne Huff Lee
Susan Morrison
Our Children’s Earth Foundation
Pemberley Investments
Heather Reisman
Shari Sant Plummer
Richard Sugarman

Funding Provided by
International Documentary Association Enterprise Documentary Fund
Fork Films
Sundance Institute Documentary Film Fund
Wavelength Productions

Original Series Funding Provided by  
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
Wyncote Foundation
The National Endowment for the Arts

One Child Nation is a co-production of Next Generation Production, LLC, INDEPENDENT TELEVISION SERVICE (ITVS), WDR/ARTE, Motto Pictures and Pumpernickel Films in association with Chicago Media Project, BBC Storyville, Chicken & Egg Pictures, SVT, EO, DR, and VGTV, with funding provided by the CORPORATION FOR PUBLIC BROADCASTING (CPB).

This film was produced by Next Generation Production, LLC, which is solely responsible for its content.

© 2019 Next Generation Production, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Were you familiar with the one-child policy debate in China before, and how did this film change your understanding of it, if it did? What are some takeaways from the story of the one-child policy's aftermath that you think can apply to the United States? Have you ever had to confront your family about an uncomfortable topic?


  • Primetime Emmy Award
    Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking (Nominee)
  • International Documentary Association
    Best Feature (Nominee)
  • Producers Guild of America
    Outstanding Producer of Documentary Motion Pictures (Nominee)
  • Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
    Documentary Feature (Shortlist)
  • Peabody Awards
    George Foster Peabody Awards - Documentary (Nominee)
Please review our comment guidelines.
Were you familiar with the one-child policy debate in China before, and how did this film change your understanding of it, if it did? What are some takeaways from the story of the one-child policy's aftermath that you think can apply to the United States? Have you ever had to confront your family about an uncomfortable topic?