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Voyage into the shadow economy that caters to Chinese tourists in “How to Have an American Baby” on POV – Dec. 11 at 10 pm

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‘POV’ Goes Behind the Closed Doors of the Chinese Birth Tourism Industry in the U.S. in Director Leslie Tai’s

“How to Have an American Baby”

The Documentary Reveals the Human Dimension of the Chinese “Maternity Hotel” Industry in the U.S.

Debuts on PBS Television Nationwide Monday, December 11, 2023 and Streaming on PBS.org and the PBS App Until March 10, 2024

 Multi Emmy® Award and Peabody Award winning series POV explores the unsettling commercialization of birth and citizenship and its human cost in the brave and nuanced documentary, How to Have an American Baby. Directed by Leslie Tai (My American Surrogate, The Private Life of Fenfen) and produced by Jillian Schultz, the film is a kaleidoscopic voyage into the shadow economy catering to Chinese tourists who travel to the U.S. to give birth in order to have babies who will be born as American citizens. With unprecedented access, the documentary, Tai’s directorial feature debut, deftly recounts all sides of this often sensationalized issue–while capturing the fortunes and tragedies of the people caught in a global economic system that exploits and capitalizes on their desire for an American passport.

An expectant Chinese mother shops at an American big-box retailer. Credit: Leslie Tai
An expectant Chinese mother shops at an American big-box retailer.
Credit: Leslie Tai

How to Have an American Baby, makes its national broadcast premiere on POV, Monday, December 11, 2023 at 10pm and available to stream without PBS
Passport membership until March 10, 2024 at pbs.org, and the PBS App.

In addition to closed captioning for all films, POV, in partnership with audio description service DiCapta, provides real time audio interpretations for audiences with sensory
disabilities. POV, currently in its 36th season, is America’s longest running non-fiction television series.

In 2015, dramatic headlines ushered Chinese “birth tourism” into the American imagination, after FBI and Homeland Security agents stormed dozens of “maternity hotels” suspected of operating illegally across Southern California, inflaming xenophobia and anti-China sentiment already on the rise. How to Have an American Baby goes beyond these headlines and provides a refined, never-before-seen insider’s look at this phenomenon.

Weaving together a series of observational vignettes, How to Have an American Baby outlines the invisible contours of the underground birth tourism industry and its unexpected actors. From Los Angeles to Beijing, the film introduces viewers to expectant mothers, maternity hotel operators, sales agents in China, cash-happy doctors and angry neighbors in the U.S.–as well as the invisible army of nannies, cooks, and drivers that fuel the industry. Director Tai brings viewers inside bedrooms, delivery rooms, and private family meetings, to chronicle the dreams and anxieties of ordinary Chinese in pursuit of their version of the American Dream.

An expectant mother rubs oil on her belly. Credit:Leslie Tai
An expectant mother rubs oil on her belly.
Credit:Leslie Tai

“This film is a counter narrative to the mainstream media portrayal of China as a threat to U.S. hegemony and the American way of life. It’s easy to think that these women are taking advantage of the system. It’s harder to walk a mile in their shoes and consider the complexity of their socioeconomic and political realities,” said director Leslie Tai. “How to Have an American Baby doesn’t take sides. It lets you think for yourself. Who is really benefiting from this? It might not be who you think.”

“Leslie Tai’s nuanced film provides us with a truthful, detailed and intimate look at the lives of people seeking U.S. citizenship for their children, often by unconventional means,” said Chris White, executive producer, POV. “Tai’s film is one of unforgettable encounters, experiences and candid conversations illustrating the joys and sorrows of motherhood within a complex web of transnationalism.”

How to Have an American Baby, made its world premiere at the 2023 True/False Film Festival. It will make its New York Premiere at DOC NYC on November 14, 2023 at Village East by Angelika at 6:45pm ET.

How to Have an American Baby, is a Big Belly Woman production, a co-production of American Documentary I POV, and made in association with Field of Vision, Fork Films, and Two Tigers Productions. Leslie Tai is the director, producer, cinematographer and editor. Jillian Schultz is the producer. The executive producers are Esther Robinson, Laura Poitras, Charlotte Cook, and Erika Dilday and Chris White for American Documentary | POV.