Shosh Shlam, Hilla Medalia
Docaviv, Göteborg, New Zealand, Atlantic, Palm Springs, Sydney, Hot Docs, Human Rights Watch London
An exploration of the challenges faced by unmarried women in China.
The Chinese equivalent of “old maid,” the judgemental phrase “leftover women” refers to women over the age of 27 who have not yet married. With the gender balance off in the country due to its past one-child policy, femicide, and selective abortions of female embryos, women are strongly encouraged to marry early for the good of the country, often laying aside professional ambitions lest they be deemed selfish. Shosh Shlam and Hilla Medalia explore the familial, social, and state pressure on such women by profiling three subjects living in Beijing, ranging in age from 28-36 – attorney Qui Hau Mei, radio host Xu Min, and film professor Gai Qi. Taking an observational approach, the filmmakers follow these women as they wrestle with whether they want to get married or not, and include visits with matchmakers, attempts at online dating, government organized mass blind-dating events, and parent-led spouse shopping. In the process, the film capably demonstrates ingrained gender, class, and regional biases, and the central role parents themselves take in reinforcing these within Chinese society.