Distributor:  dGenerate Films
Length:  68 minutes
Date:  2014
Genre:  Observational
Language:  Mandarin / English subtitles
Grade level: 8-12, COLLEGE, ADULT
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Mothers is a gripping cinema verite documentary that shows how China's one-child policy plays out in the daily lives of women in a northern Chinese village.


Mothers is a gripping cinema verite documentary that shows how China's one-child policy plays out in the daily lives of women in a northern Chinese village.

There are not a lot of job prospects in Ma, a community of 2,000 in Shanxi Province. Factories have closed, young people are leaving, and declining numbers are more of a problem than over-population. Still, town officials must strictly enforce the one-child policy. In the case of Ma, this means meeting an annual quota for the sterilization of women who have had more than one child.

At the heart of the documentary lies a high stakes cat-and-mouse game. On one side are the male deputy mayor Zhang Guo-hong and the female local director of women's care, Zhang Qing-mei. On the other: a schoolteacher named Rong Rong who is a mother of two - and who has managed so far to avoid sterilization. Now - faced with the prospect of failing to meet their quota - Qing-mei and Guo-hong are determined to make sure Rong Rong doesn't outwit them again. They appear at her house early in the morning, try to track her down through her relatives (including a grandmother who emphatically berates Guo-hong), and hold out a carrot in the form of the residency papers she will need for her second child.

Meanwhile, Qing-mei also travels through town on her red scooter, spreading the gospel of family planning at rallies and celebrations, and trying to exhort as many women as possible to submit to sterilization.

Without resorting to voice-over, Mothers offers a powerful feminist perspective, as we watch men developing and enforcing reproductive policies for women. Here, women's bodies are not an ideological battleground, but the epicenter of the conflict over the most banal of undertakings: meeting a quota. Eventually, even Guo-hong admits to the camera, 'We're just scared of losing our jobs. Do you think I am really committed to this?'

'A bold work of cinematic journalism and a gripping human interest story, Mothers is highly recommended.' -Libertas Film Magazine

'Masterful... a most astonishing film!' -Next Projection


** Official Selection, Documentary Fortnight 2014, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
** Award HONORABLE MENTION, The Special Jury Award, 20th Sheffield Doc/Fest Film, 2013
** Award Special Mention, 49th Chicago International Film Festival, Documentary Competition, 2013
** 2013 Yunnan Multi Culture Visual Festival, Competition 2013
** 14th The Jeonju International Film Festival, International Competition 2013
** FIRST YOUTH FILM FESTIVAL -The nominations for best documentary 2013
** The 6th Chinese Documentary Festival, competition section 2013
** 11th Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival, CHINA BETWEEN CHAOS AND CONTROL, 2013
** IDFA 2013, Best of Fests, 2013
** 54th Festival dei Popoli, Special event, 2013
** 30th Festival Belluard Bollwerk International in Fribourg, 2013


Main credits

Xu, Huijing (Director)
Xu, Huijing (Cinematographer)
Xu, Huijing (Film editor)
Jiang, Xianbin (Producer)
Hao, Zhiqiang (Producer)

Other credits

Photographer, Xu Hui-jing; editors, Liao Qing-song, Xu Hui-jing, Huang Yi-Ling; music, Liu Qi.

Distributor credits

A film by XU Huijing

Docuseek2 subjects

Medical Ethics
Health, Healthcare, Medicine and Nursing
Family Issues
Women's Studies
Asian Studies

Distributor subjects

Family Relations
Health Care Issues
Women's Health
Women's Studies
dGenerate Films Collection - Documentaries


one-child policy; Shanxi Province; population control; reproduction policies; feminism; family planning; quota; mother; China; sterilize; "Mothers"; Icarus Films

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