One Child Director Zijian Mu’s latest short film showcases the primal survival techniques of living through and beyond tragedy. The documentary, set in the aftermath of the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake, has been reported to be the deadliest natural disaster in China’s recent history. The effects of China’s strict one-child law and the loss of children is the center-piece, of China’s deadliest disaster, killing in excess of 90,000 people and which included more than 5,000 children.
This short documents not only the people that are killed in this horrific act of nature, but what and how survivors live through and cope with loss. The film follows three households; Yang, a married mother who lost her daughter in the earthquake and is now too old to have another child, and follows her quest to adopt a little girl. Married couple Jiang and Fu who are raising their daughter and chronicles them enrolling their daughter in preschool. And another mother named Gu, who’s extreme loneliness is caused from the loss of her daughter, while her surviving granddaughter lives with her son-in-law’s family.
The film comes to life when Mu who shot, edited and directed the short plays ‘the fly on the wall’, capturing  moments that are so raw it’s truly heartbreaking to watch. Early in the film, mother Yang goes into the rubble and the room of her dead daughter’s bedroom for the first time in three years. She breaks down telling stories, about moments that occurred during better times. She says something that sums up the films theme.
‘When the whole family is gone, there is nothing else to lose.
Those who are left alive, suffer the most.’
I’ve never seen a film that documented the single act of having to move past death, and the simple fact that if you get stuck- you’ll stay stuck. It’s a very murky gray area where people either choose to live for their loved one’s they’ve lost or stay stuck in the shell of the memory they hold. One thing is for sure, staying stuck takes lots of time and emotion and in the end you can choose to stay or choose to keep moving. But always remember one thing, the choice is yours.