Hearing about China's 1979 one-child policy, lasting 35 years, is one thing. Listening to Asians who lived through it is another. The logic of administrators, some of whom who appear in Nanfu Wang's informative and touching documentary, One Child Nation, almost make sense.
Then you realize who is abandoned and who abducted, mostly girls, and you grimace for them and the families who were torn apart by the rule. Assuredly the females had to go first when authorities discovered families with more than one child because the Asian tradition had always favored males.
Wang having been given a man's name (Nanfu translates into "man" and pillar") shows a deft hand at directing without preaching. She does what I find lacking in too many docs-the other side. Those supporting a one-child policy appear frequently praising it as the salvation of a billion people who would have starved or resorted to cannibalism without the population restraint.
The devastating effects cannot be hidden: babies left in baskets, twins separated forever, human trafficking on a grand scale are just a few of the disorders. Propaganda is always there to reinforce the state's message. Wang presents it all, both good and bad.
But like our dark slavery past or Nazi cleansing, heinous plans to control population never seem to survive. The trail, however, is bloody and harrowing.
Wang has expertly balanced between a depressing subject and an important history lesson: "Don't fool with Mother Nature."