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China's Stolen Children (2007)

Ten years after the policy-changing and award-winning film, The Dying Rooms, the same team returns to a very different China where the infamous One Child Policy has had the horrific side ... See full summary »



2 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »


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Ten years after the policy-changing and award-winning film, The Dying Rooms, the same team returns to a very different China where the infamous One Child Policy has had the horrific side effect of a boom in stolen children. With extraordinary access to devastated parents desperately searching for their stolen son; a man who brokers the deals and has sold his own offspring; and prospective parents grappling with giving up their soon-to-be-born daughter through lack of options, we are brought face to face with the crisis that such a stringent government policy has created among China's poorest people. Beautiful, haunting, deeply tragic, but impossible to ignore, this film takes us into the heart of modern China. A place where girl babies are being sold for 3,000-4,000 RMB (£200-270); detectives specialise in finding kidnapped children; and child traffickers are so relaxed about the trade they ply, that they allow the film-makers to covertly record them buying and selling tiny human ... Written by Anonymous

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8 October 2007 (UK)  »

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A well-structured and important film despite being depressing and quite distressing
18 April 2008 | by See all my reviews

I must confess that I know very little about China and I don't think I'm a minority yokel who gets his news by judging the pattern bones make when thrown down. No, all I can really tell you about the world's next superpower is that it is going to be the world's next superpower, so any documentary that comes along on the subject is going to be of interest to me as a way to learn more. This film falls very much into that category as it was filmed with the crew posing as tourists, plenty of hidden filming and mobile phone sim-cards being changed after each call for fear of exposure. It should not be questioned in regards the risks taken by those involved but a film is about the final product, not the challenges of making it (were it any other way, Waterworld would be held in much higher regard).

As a film though, it is far more impressive than the challenges in the making and accordingly we are told by the narrator of the undercover work very early and in a very brief scene; after this it is very much a footnote to a much more compelling and distressing documentary. Tens of thousands of children, the film tells us, go missing or are sold in China and this film looks at the issues behind this and, to its credit, does not pretend that they are simple. Some of these trafficked children are from "necessity" but the "evil" that makes it happen is spread wide – from institutions to individuals and the film makes this point really well while exploring the world where a newborn girl can be picked up for as little as £200, which is less than an X-box.

We spend our time with various subjects. One is a private detective who works tirelessly to find missing children when the authorities seem disinterested to the point of almost denying it ever occurs. He is working for a couple whose young children was kidnapped off the street. Another couple have just had a baby but are too young to get married, which means they cannot get a marriage permit and thus cannot get a birth permit – meaning they face a fine of almost £2000 to be able to then get papers for their baby were they to declare it. We also meet a trafficker of children, who sold his own son to another family and sees nothing wrong with what he does. The various stories are well woven together to make for a compelling film that has almost nothing in it to uplift or relieve you from the misery and horror of the subject – we get to see a rescue of a teenage girl from the sex trade back into the arms of her mother but even this is full of danger and fear and ends during the rescue rather than following up with happy domestic scenes.

None of it is without strong emotion and that is as it should be because it is a terrible subject. The most disturbing parts for me are with the trafficker. He appears a normal, boring little man but yet he discusses "tricking women" and "supply and demand" in the same way you or I would discuss making a cup of tea. This is why he is taking part in the film, because he genuinely does not see anything wrong with what he is doing, not even with the fact that he sold his own son and would have sold the other one had he not been old enough to find his way home. There is evil that is knowingly evil and wrong but I think it is almost more frightening to meet someone who has nothing in their eyes to suggest they even know what they are doing. He states that he thinks there must be something wrong with seeing people as commodities but he just cannot work out what it is. However even with this the film does not go after him as a monster but rather just leaves him as part of a bigger problem.

The film offers up connections to the single child policy and it makes this case very convincingly to the point that the official Chinese Government statement does little to dissuade. The film is well worth seeing because it doesn't just look to shock so much as inform; the contributors are well chosen and all the angles are laid in front of the viewer leaving very little doubt that action is needed and that at present the Government seems to be doing very little to address the problem.

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