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Documentary Film Review: ‘Misconception’


Academy Award-winning filmmaker Jessica Yu’s Misconception offers another take on the question of over population, a fresh look at forces that really drive both familial and environmental destruction, and allows the viewer the opportunity to delve in to one of the most poignant questions for modern humanity: What is the value of one human life? Who decides that? Why?

If the temperature of Russian culture were taken, it would run hot with the need to breed. If you give birth on Russia Day, you may win a luxury SUV. Conversely, the way to win a car in a part of Rajasthan is to be voluntarily sterilized – a program that targets women. The population pressure versus the statistics of a male to female ratio skewed by China’s “One-Child Policy” leads to the first act of this film, aptly titled “Lonely Emperor Seeks Wife”. The 25-year-old Chinese policy led to a severe gender imbalance and was ended this year. The consequences are staggering.

Using elegant visual poetry alongside the investigative documentary format and some reality style videography, Misconception takes us inside three far-flung cultures to review the main topics from very diverse angles. We are invited into the world of a 29-year-old bachelor in Beijing who is searching for love, a Canadian pro-life activist setting off to speak at the United Nations, and a Ugandan journalist with a missing children column in the local news who searches the streets for those who have been abandoned by their largely underage and uneducated mothers.

This intimate look at the myriad of issues surround the larger topic of reproductive health and family planning widens the scope and reveals the heights and depths of the global impact on a vulnerable group: women. This film reinforces the universal truth that what unites humanity is stronger than what divides it. Namely, we are all united in our beginnings as infants who need care, who need stable mothers, parents and community.

The premise suggests that the threat of overpopulation is a myth to be debunked. Statistician/ professor/ academic/ TED talker Hans Rosling of Sweden uses plain talk to explain that humanity has already decelerated global birth rates. Women with access to family planning and reproductive health options have chosen career pathways ahead of pregnancy, while still being sexually active. Now fairly 80% of the planet settles on a two child per couple household; only the poorest 20% are left with the five child statistics of the past. Global birthrates are affected by international policy from the United Nations, government programs, non-governmental organizations (NGO) and not-for-profits (NPO). When the financing of special interest groups drives the latter two, the use of one culture’s agenda is propagated on to a foreign culture. There is a remarkably huge disconnect between religious morals or societal ideals and what people need to survive.

The “Misconception” is that global population may continue to skyrocket. Evidence clearly presented by Hans Rosling guides a conclusion that the global population is rebalancing. For this we can thank women. The assertion is that women’s civil rights movements, the access to contraceptives which curtails unwanted pregnancy, and the ability to gain higher education and access to career choices have all helped contribute to a slowdown of population growth. The high birthrates of the past only occur where education and development for women has not. The film ends by reinforcing that the imbalance of resource usage is the main threat to this planet, that the wealthiest countries are restricting access of resources to the poorest.

The true interconnectivity of all life is what is asserted finally, that we need to switch our focus away from fear and “Misconception” and on to a greater compassion for humanity. The answer to the question of “What is the value of one human life?” should be: priceless.

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