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(Ma Ma Di Quan Zhuang)


Mandarin w/ English subtitles




Xu Huijing











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?"


  • 2014 Documentary Fortnight, Museum of Modern Art

  • Special Jury Award, 2013 20th Sheffield Doc/Fest Film

  • Special Mention, 2013 49th Chicago International Film Festival, Documentary Competition

  •  2014 San Diego Asian Festival

  • 2013 Yunnan Multi Culture Visual Festival

  • 2013 14th The Jeonju International Film Festival

  • 2013 First Youth Film Festival

  • 2013 6th Chinese Documentary Festival

  • 2013 11th Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival

  • Best of Fests, 2013 International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam

  • 2013 54th Festival dei Popoli

  • 2013 30th Festival Belluard Bollwerk International

"A bold work of cinematic journalism and a gripping human interest story, MOTHERS is highly recommended."

Libertas Film Magazine

"Masterful... a most astonishing film!"

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