Not One Less

Acclaimed director Zhang Yimou's visual flair and sense of irony color this interesting social-problem film, which takes a hard look at education in provincial China. A family emergency forces Teacher Gao (Gao Enman) to temporarily leave his post as primary-school teacher in a tiny mountain village called Shuixian. Rosy-cheeked, 13-year-old Wei Minzhi (Wei...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Acclaimed director Zhang Yimou's visual flair and sense of irony color this interesting social-problem film, which takes a hard look at education in provincial China. A family emergency forces Teacher Gao (Gao Enman) to temporarily leave his post as primary-school

teacher in a tiny mountain village called Shuixian. Rosy-cheeked, 13-year-old Wei Minzhi (Wei Minzhi) arrives to take his place, even though she isn't much older or better educated than the students; the impoverished school is too poor to be choosy, and Minzhi needs the 50 yuans promised her by

the town's mayor (Tian Zhenda). The children of poor mountain families have been leaving school in droves, and the mayor warns Minzhi that she will only be paid as long as all 28 students are still there when Teacher Gao returns. Taking attendance is about all Minzhi bothers with as far as

teaching goes, but when a 10-year-old troublemaker named Huike (Zhang Huike) runs off to the city, Minzhi snaps into action and goes to extraordinary lengths to get him back. Zhang does a great job drawing affecting and often very funny performances from his extremely young and inexperienced cast

of non-professional actors, and Minzhi's journey across the countryside and into the city is gorgeously shot by veteran, fifth-generation cinematographer Hou Yong (HORSE THIEF, THE BLUE KITE). This is much more than a typically one-dimensional message-movie — it's obviously the work of a

master filmmaker — but Zhang, whose films have long been concerned with life in the remote regions of China, tackles his subject head-on and with a slight ironic edge that hints at a much larger problem. Even though she ultimately becomes an unwitting spokesperson for education reform, Minzhi

is really only in it for the cash she desperately needs to survive. (In Mandarin, with English subtitles.)

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  • Released: 1999
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Acclaimed director Zhang Yimou's visual flair and sense of irony color this interesting social-problem film, which takes a hard look at education in provincial China. A family emergency forces Teacher Gao (Gao Enman) to temporarily leave his post as primar… (more)

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