Home / Art & Culture / What’s on TV Friday: ‘One Child Nation’ and ‘Great Performances’

What’s on TV Friday: ‘One Child Nation’ and ‘Great Performances’

ONE CHILD NATION (2019) Stream on Amazon. The filmmakers Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang explore China’s long-running one-child policy in this searing documentary, which was applauded at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The film focuses on the toll that the policy took during its decades of enforcement (China embraced the policy in the late 1970s and ended it in 2015). It uses Wang’s own family and story as a way in, combining her narration with interviews with people who felt the effects of the policy in different, troubling ways. It’s an emotionally intense topic that Wang and Zhang address “with clarity, concision and strategically restrained outrage,” Manohla Dargis wrote in her review for The New York Times. “I’ve watched ‘One Child Nation’ twice, at times through tears,” she added, “but there’s nothing in it that’s gratuitously exploitative. It is instead an essential account of one battle in the continuing war over women’s bodies, one that, Wang forcefully observes, is in no way limited to China.”

SEE Stream on Apple TV Plus. It begins with a birth: A pair of children born into a society that they can see, but that can’t see them. That is the premise of this action-drama series, set in a world where a virus wiped out most of the human population and rendered all the survivors blind. The story picks up centuries after that cataclysm, with the birth of the two children, whose ability to see puts them at risk of being killed by a tribe that views eyesight as a sin. Luckily for them, their father is played by Jason Momoa — so they at least have a mighty guardian. The series was created and written by the “Peaky Blinders” creator Steven Knight. It exhibits, Mike Hale wrote in his review for The Times, “a ripe ridiculousness that’s almost endearing.”

FIRE IN PARADISE (2019) Stream on Netflix. Exactly a year has passed since the fire that would grow into the deadliest wildfire in California’s history first started burning. This documentary presents interviews with survivors of the Camp Fire and some of those who fought it.

GREAT PERFORMANCES: 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings). A film of the 2015 Lincoln Center Theater revival of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “The King and I” is the latest entry in PBS’s “Great Performances” series. Directed by Bartlett Sher, the production pairs Kelli O’Hara and Ken Watanabe in the familiar roles of a British schoolteacher working in Siam and a Siamese king. The heirloom show’s colonialist elements will also be familiar to many — and they are not left unaddressed. Sher “works from within vintage material, coaxing shadowy emotional depths to churn up a surface that might otherwise seem shiny and slick,” Ben Brantley wrote in his review for The Times. The musical’s lush, familiar ballads, Brantley added, “acquire freshening nuance and anchoring conviction here.”


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