Screened as part of NZIFF 2014

Mothers 2013

Mama di quanzhuang

Directed by Xu Hu-jing

Mothers is a gripping vérité documentary that shows how China’s one-child policy plays out in the daily lives of women in a northern Chinese village: those who enforce it and those who try to elude it.

China In Mandarin with English subtitles
68 minutes Blu-ray

Director, Photography


Ben Tsiang
Hai Zhi-qiang


Liao Qing-song
Xu Hu-jing
Huang Yi-ling


Liu Qi


This fly-on-the-wall documentary accompanies Zhang Qingmei, a family-planning official, and a team of birth control officers in rural China. Under pressure to secure sterilisations of women who have had more than one child, they know their jobs are at risk if they don’t meet quota. It’s not so easy: many have been sterilised already or are past child-bearing age. Others resist, or go into hiding. The film focuses on the team’s cynical campaign to trap a recalcitrant school teacher, providing ample evidence that it’s bureaucratic machinery – not conviction – that fuels their determination. (Off duty, Zhang – whose preferred calling is as a psychic – oversees a fertility shrine.) The teacher’s grandmother protests that the project is as insane as it is inhuman: with the children of one-child-families deserting the villages, who will be left to look after the elderly? — Sandra Reid.

“With its abundance of telling DV-filmed sequences… and an edit which brings everything together as if it's a documentary-style thriller, Mothers offers a riveting viewing and a revealing picture of the pain brought about by insensitive political dictums.” — Clarence Tsui, Hollywood Reporter