China-Underground Movie Database > Movies > Zhang Yimou > Not One Less

Not One Less

Share

Not One Less (1999)

106 min - Comedy, Drama, Foreign - 7 September 1999
Your rating:
Not rated yet!

Teacher Gao loves the students in his poor village and is devoted to educating them in the hope of their greater futures. When he is called away to tend to his dying mother for a month, the Mayor calls in an inexperienced 13 year-old replacement, Wei Minzhi; much to Teacher Gao's dismay. Teacher Gao cannot stand the thought of losing anymore students: he has already lost twelve to ever-increasing attrition, and he promises Wei an extra 10 yuan if she succeeds in ensuring that upon his return, there will be not one less. Wei's difficult mission to fulfill Teacher Gao's wish and her own concern for the welfare of the children begins.

Director:  Zhang Yimou
Writers:  Xiangsheng Shi

Photos

No images were imported for this movie.

Storyline

Teacher Gao loves the students in his poor village and is devoted to educating them in the hope of their greater futures. When he is called away to tend to his dying mother for a month, the Mayor calls in an inexperienced 13 year-old replacement, Wei Minzhi; much to Teacher Gao's dismay. Teacher Gao cannot stand the thought of losing anymore students: he has already lost twelve to ever-increasing attrition, and he promises Wei an extra 10 yuan if she succeeds in ensuring that upon his return, there will be not one less. Wei's difficult mission to fulfill Teacher Gao's wish and her own concern for the welfare of the children begins.


Collections: Zhang Yimou

Genres: Comedy, Drama, Foreign

Details

Official Website: 
Country:   China
Language:  普通话
Release Date:  7 September 1999

Box Office

Company Credits

Production Companies: 

Technical Specs

Runtime:  1 h 46 min

Teacher Gao loves the students in his poor village and is devoted to educating them in the hope of their greater futures.

When he is called away to tend to his dying mother for a month, the Mayor calls in an inexperienced 13 year-old replacement, Wei Minzhi; much to Teacher Gao’s dismay.

Not One Less (1999) movie trailer

Not One Less by Zhang Yimou

Not One Less is a 1999 drama film by Chinese director Zhang Yimou, adapted from Shi Xiangsheng’s 1997 story “A Sun in the Sky” (Chinese: 天上有个太阳; pinyin: tiān shàng yǒu ge tàiyáng).[1][2] It was produced by Guangxi Film Studio and released by China Film Group Corporation in mainland China, and distributed by Sony Pictures Classics and Columbia TriStar internationally.

Set in the People’s Republic of China during the 1990s, the film centers on a 13-year-old substitute teacher, Wei Minzhi, in the Chinese countryside. Called in to substitute for a village teacher for one month, Wei is told not to lose any students. When one of the boys takes off in search of work in the big city, she goes looking for him. The film addresses education reform in China, the economic gap between urban and rural populations, and the prevalence of bureaucracy and authority figures in everyday life. It is filmed in a neorealist/documentary style with a troupe of non-professional actors who play characters with the same names and occupations as the actors have in real life, blurring the boundaries between drama and reality.

The domestic release of Not One Less was accompanied by a Chinese government campaign aimed at promoting the film and cracking down on piracy. Internationally, the film was generally well-received, but it also attracted criticism for its ostensibly political message; foreign critics are divided on whether the film should be read as praising or criticizing the Chinese government. When the film was excluded from the 1999 Cannes Film Festival’s competition section, Zhang withdrew it and another film from the festival, and published a letter rebuking Cannes for politicization of and “discrimination” against Chinese cinema. The film went on to win the Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion and several other awards, and Zhang won the award for best director at the Golden Rooster Awards.

Plot

Thirteen-year-old Wei Minzhi arrives in Shuiquan village to substitute for the village’s only teacher (Gao Enman) while he takes a month’s leave to care for his ill mother. When Gao discovers that Wei does not have a high school education and has no special talents, he instructs her to teach by copying his texts onto the board and then making the students copy them into their notebooks; he also tells her not to use more than one piece of chalk per day, because the village is too poor to afford more. Before leaving, he explains to her that many students have recently left school to find work in the cities, and he offers her a 10 yuan bonus if all the students are still there when he returns.

When Wei begins teaching, she has little rapport with the students: they shout and run around instead of copying their work, and the class troublemaker, Zhang Huike, insists that “she’s not a teacher, she’s Wei Chunzhi’s big sister!” After putting the lesson on the board, Wei usually sits outside, guarding the door to make sure no students leave until they have finished their work. Early in the month, a sports recruiter comes to take one athletic girl, Ming Xinhong, to a special training school; unwilling to let any students leave, Wei hides Ming, and when the village mayor (Tian Zhenda) finds her, Wei chases after their car in a futile attempt to stop them.

One day, after trying to make the troublemaker Zhang apologize for bothering another student, Wei discovers that Zhang has left to go find work in the nearby city of Zhangjiakou. The village mayor is unwilling to give her money for a bus ticket to the city, so she resolves to earn the money herself, and recruits the remaining students to help. One girl suggests that they can make money by moving bricks in a nearby brickyard, and Wei begins giving the students mathematical exercises centered on finding out how much money they need to earn for the bus tickets, how many bricks they need to move, and how much time it will take. Through these exercises and working to earn money, her rapport with the class improves. After earning the money, she reaches the bus station but learns that the price is higher than she thought, and she cannot afford a ticket. Wei ends up walking most of the way to Zhangjiakou.

In the city, Wei finds the people that Zhang was supposed to be working with, only to discover that they had lost him at the train station days before. She forces another girl her age, Sun Zhimei, to help her look for Zhang at the train station, but they do not find him. Wei has no success finding Zhang through the public address system and “missing person” posters, so she goes to the local television station to broadcast a missing person notice. The receptionist (Feng Yuying) will not let her in without valid identification, though, and says the only way she can enter is with permission from the station manager, whom she describes as “a man with glasses”. For the rest of the day, Wei stands by the station’s only gate, stopping every man with glasses, but she does not find the station manager, and spends the night asleep on the street. The next day the station manager (Wu Wanlu) sees her at the gate again, through his window, and lets her in, scolding the receptionist for making her wait outside.

Although Wei has no money to run an ad on TV, the station manager is interested in her story and decides to feature Wei in a talk show special about rural education. On the talk show, Wei is nervous and hardly says a word when the host (Li Fanfan) addresses her, but Zhang—who has been wandering the streets begging for food—sees the show. After Wei and Zhang are reunited, the station manager arranges to have them driven back to Shuiquan village, along with a truckload of school supplies and donations that viewers had sent in. Upon their return, they are greeted by the whole village. In the final scene, Wei presents the students with several boxes of colored chalk that were donated, and allows each student to write one character on the board. The film ends with a series of title cards that recount the actions of the characters after the film ends, and describe the problem of poverty in rural education in China. [wikipedia]