One Child Nation (2019 Nanfu Wang & Jialing Zhang)

Nanfu explores Chinese policy through the personal histories of her own family and neighbors, then expands to the country’s legacy of international adoption and a quest to trace adopted kids to their birth parents. As the country’s present-day propaganda shifts towards telling people that the perfect number of children to have is two, Nanfu tries to get people who lived through the previous era – parents who abandoned newborn children to die in the marketplace, party official abortionists, local government leaders who tore down the homes of residents who disobeyed the policy, families who made a business of selling abandoned babies to adoption agencies only to be imprisoned for human trafficking – to denounce the policy. But after decades of indoctrination, she manages to get one person to say it was a good idea, “but they took it too far.” Feels like too massive of an issue (and a country) for a single doc to cover, but the way she weaves the politics through her family’s own stories and memories makes it work beautifully – one of the best of this year’s T/F docs.