Jessica Yu’s latest documentary, Misconception had its genesis in her 2011 film Last Call at the Oasis, a stark examination of how we treat our limited water supply on our planet. In several interviews about this latest effort she has said every Q&A session after Last Call at the Oasis there were questions about the impact of overpopulation on that water supply.
According to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, the world’s population reached one billion in the year 1804. 123 years later, it hit two billion. 85 years later, less than it took to go from one billion to two billion, the population hit the seven billion mark. The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs estimates there will be approximately 9.7 humans on our planet by the year 2050.
Misconception challenges these notions, using the research and extraordinary presentation skills of Dr. Hans Rosling. Professor of International Health at the world-renowned Karolinska Institute in Sweden, he is medical doctor, statistician and entertainer all at once. He makes several points at the film’s outset.
80% of families live in nations where the average family has only two children per household. Or as he puts it, “per woman.”
Since 1990 the number of children born each year has not increased.
The current number of children under the age of 15 remains stable at two billion.
He also postulates that the greatest threat facing the planet is not population growth, but the consumption of too many resources by those who live in nations with the highest standard of living.
Miss Yu goes on to examine the issues involving population growth by taking a detailed look at three individuals. First up is Bao Jianxin, who resides in Beijing. It is inconceivable to look at population growth without considering China where a one-child per family policy remained in place until the beginning of this year. Now there is a two-child policy. Bao is 29 years old and the subject of extreme pressure, both internal and external from his parents and friends, to marry before he turns 30. He is at a severe disadvantage in this quest. Dr. Rosling points out that due to the one-child policy and the Chinese preference for male children, there is a shortage of some 30 million women in the People’s Republic. We see Bao’s attempt to find a wife in a variety of situations.
Next up is a look at Denise Mountenay of Canada. She is not seeking to personally procreate but wants to ensure that the process continues in other women without being slowed by contraception or abortion. She is an activist who is traveling to the UN with swag bags for the diplomats who will meet with her. Swag bags that contain plastic representations of fetuses at the 10th week of development. Her affect is displayed at its peak of off-putting.
Finally we journey to Uganda where journalist Gladys Kalibbala searches for those children who have disappeared or gone missing. She write a column for a newspaper where these children are featured, in hope of locating their families and reuniting the children with them.
The examination of these three very different people is done in a somewhat uneven fashion. Gladys is made to look like a future Nobel Peace Prize nominee while Denise and her beliefs are shown in the worst possible light. Bao’s plight evokes sympathy and gives us an enlightening glimpse into a world most of us know little about.
In the end, Misconception will have the audience reexamining their views on population growth and that makes it a success.