Friday, July 1, 2011

Not One Less

Chinese Drama
106 min, 2000
Rating: 7 out of 10

13-year-old Wei Minzhi is left in charge of a one-classroom elementary school in rural China and is told she will be paid 50 yuan for one month of work. She will also get a 10 yuan bonus if there is “not one less” student – if she maintains the enrollment – when the month is done and the regular teacher returns.

So when one little boy heads off to the city to find work Wei is determined to bring the boy back so she can get her bonus. First though, she has to find enough money to buy a bus ticket to the city…and her students aren’t willing to contribute. Once there she will have another problem – how do you find one little boy in a city of millions?

This is a strangely compelling movie, showing some of the extremes of China, particularly the wealth of the major city contrasted with the poverty of the rural school. While the actors in this film are all amateurs – the mayor of the town is played by the mayor of a town, the students are played by students, the TV announcer played by a TV announcer, and so on – the acting is good, though in an understated sort of way. This is a gentle excellent little film, but it might be too slow for those not use to foreign fare.