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“China has more than a billion people so almost everyone has a story about the one child policy to talk about out,” One Child Nation director Nanfu Wang told the Documentary Roundtable. Being a Chinese native, Wang and her family were affected by the policy, but she was also affected by the propaganda around the policy, she said.
“We decided we want to do 360 degrees with the policy: people who carried out the policy and people who were the victims of the policy. When we started meeting people we realized even the people who carried out the policy, they are part of the victims, too,” Wang continued. “We decided officials, midwives, women and people who do propaganda — we decided to choose one representative of each.”
“We have a lot of archival, almost all archival [footage] produced by the state,” Wang said of the content she used in the documentary. “When I grew up, I grew up in the propaganda. Everything I saw was propaganda. Now I’m making the film, and for the first time I’m looking back to my past, and realized how they had affected the way that I think and realized how much my ideology and world view were shaped by the propaganda.”
“Ironically the people that we want to see the film most are the people who can’t see,” Wang said. “The people there, because the information was so restricted, they tend to believe the propaganda.” As a result, Wang said many of her closest friends in China turned against her and said, “Why would you make a film that damages our national image?”
“They believed that I got brainwashed by the Western media,” Wang told The Hollywood Reporter.
The full Documentary Roundtable is set to air Feb. 9 on SundanceTV. Wang appears on the roundtable panel along with Julia Reichert, Todd Douglas Miller, Lauren Greenfield, Asif Kapadia and Alex Gibney. Follow all the Oscar-season roundtables at THR.com/Roundtables.
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