ominated for Best Animated Short Film at this year’s Oscars is a personal story about the consequences of China’s “one-child policy.”
Titled Sister, the stop-motion animated short tells the story of a Chinese man who thinks back on his childhood and wonders what his life would have been like if his mother had not been forced to terminate her second pregnancy, imagining how it would have been to have an annoying little sister.
The film was made by animator Siqi Song who herself was born in violation of the one-child policy to government worker parents. Here’s how she described the movie’s genesis:
I had the idea of making this film because for me, I’m the second child in my family. I’m a little sister actually; I have a bigger brother. And growing up, my parents always told me how hard they tried to have me. I was born in the 1990s and it was really strict in China; you could not have a second child. So, my parents tried really hard. And they paid a big price so they could give birth to me. I always knew my story, that I was not supposed to exist.
For some families, if they truly wanted to have a second child, they found ways to do it. It’s not impossible. Both my parents worked for the government. They knew they would get in lots of trouble when they had me. My father was not be able to advance in his career because he broke the law, because he had me. My parents sacrificed a lot. But very few families had the resources to afford to do it.
It took Song three years to complete the film which she began to work on while a student at CalArts.
Last year, this very same Oscars category was won by another female animator who was born in China but grew up in Canada. The film, Domee Shi’s Bao, focused on an aging Chinese-Canadian mother who is given an unexpected second chance at motherhood when a baozi she made comes to life.
Meanwhile, China’s own nominee for the 92nd Academy Awards, Nezha, a blockbuster animated epic with roots in Chinese mythology, was, not surprisingly, not one of the films selected. China hasn’t had one of its movies selected for nomination since 2002’s Hero by Zhang Yimou.