Yi ge dou bu neng shao (Not One Less) (1999)




Director:  Zhang Yimou

Starring:  Minzhi Wei (Wei Minzhi), Huike Zhang (Zhang Huike), Zhenda Tian (Village Chief), Enman Gao (Teacher Gao), Zhimei Sun (Sun Zhimei), Yuying Feng (TV Receptionist), Fanfan Li (TV Host), Yichang Zhang (Mr Zhang, instructor), Xu Zhanqing (Brick factory owner), Hanzhi Liu (Zhang Huike's mother), Ma Guolin (Bus station man), Wu Wanlu (TV station manager), Liu Ru (Train station announcer), Wang Shulan (Stationery store clerk), Fu Xinmin (TV station director).

a rural Communist confronts post-Deng modernization efforts in contemporary China



Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire movie. 

This is more of a sociological movie than an historical one, although the two are always interrelated, with politics often following from social demographics.  In a small rural village, a very young girl is selected to be a substitute teacher because there is simply no one else.  The current teacher is not happy about this.  He is worried that she will not be able to handle the job.  He tries to prepare her as much as he can in the little time before he leaves the village, but he feels it is still too little to help her.   

The really too young substitute, a student herself just a few years ahead of her own students, has great difficulties keeping control in the classroom.  One bad boy, in particular, is driving her to distraction.  Her attempts to control the lad leaves the kid thinking that she has got it in for him.  He leaves and goes to the city to make a some money.  When the student does not return, the substitute decides to go to town to retrieve him.  But she is like a duck out of water in the city.  Obviously, she must have thought it would be a relatively easy task, but she soon learns that finding a missing person in a big city is no easy task.  She starts asking everyone about her missing student.  Most people just say they have no idea, while some give her advice on how to find a missing person in the city.  Finally, someone tells her to go to the offices of the local television company to make an announcement on the air.   She goes to the television studios, but the young substitute teacher finds that she can not get past the female clerk that screens entrants. 

This girl has some moxie.  She does not give up.  She says she will wait at the gate and catch the attention of the big boss when he comes out.  As the company employees leave work for home, she asks each man if he is the head man of the company.  The girl is there for a long time and the employees and bosses start asking questions about her.  Finally, she comes to the attention of the actual head man.  He asks the clerk why had she not let the young girl in to see him.  She tells him that the girl did not have enough money to pay for an ad on television.  The boss asks her, paraphrasing:: and so you just had her stand all day outside the gate.  Yes.  He tells the clerk that she is unbelievably callous.  He talks with the substitute teacher and her story is put on television.  She explains, through her tears, the poverty-striken situation that brought her to come to the big city.  She explains how poor they are in the rural villages where she and her students live.  This brings great attention to the lack of education in the rural areas of China.  She is re-united with her missing student.  Well-wishers send the village a huge amount of educational materials and the young girl and the entire village are thrilled. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


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