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Not one less

Threat advisory: High - High risk of entertaining activities

Movie propaganda

In her village she was a teacher... but in the city, she discovered how much she had to learn.

Teacher Gao of the Shuixuan Primary School has to be away from school for a month to tend to his ailing mother. The mayor of the village finds a substitute teacher, Wei Minzhi, to take over the class for Teacher Gao. Seeing that Wei Minzhi is only 13-years-old, teacher Gao protests to the mayor that such a young girl will not be able to teach students who are her own age or slightly younger. The mayor replies that finding anyone in that rural area who is willing to take the job is no mean feat, and that at the least she can keep an eye on things while teacher Gao is away.

Teacher Gao's class had 40 students at the beginning of the school year, but increasing attrition has brought that number down to 28. Teacher Gao admonishes Wei Minzhi that she must not allow even one more student to drop out while he's gone and promises her an extra 10 Yuan in pay if she succeeds.

Wei faithfully calls the roster every day and then sets the students to copying lessons from the blackboard. She is not overly concerned about whether the students actually learn anything as long as they stay put; she ends up spending most of each day sitting guard outside the classroom door.

Ten-year-old student Zhang Huike is a bright but naughty boy who often tries Wei's patience as she works to keep a semblance of order amongst the children. His family is in serious financial debt, however, and when he fails to appear in class one morning, Wei discovers he has been forced to go to the city to find work.

With teacher Gao's words still firmly in her mind but only a vague idea of where the boy might be, Wei Minzhi sets off on her own to the big city to try to find Zhang Huike and bring him back.

All of the roles in this film are played by non-professionals and in nearly every case, each actor is playing the same role he or she has in life. For example, the role of Wei Minzhi, the 13-year-old schoolgirl/substitute, is played by Wei Minzhi, a 13-year-old school girl; the village mayor is in real life a village mayor, and so on.

Directed by Zhang Yimou.

Cinematic intelligence sources

Intelligence analyst

Special Agent Matti

Theatrical report


I live in poncy Paddington, home to the inner city gentry of Sydney: big spending, over-fed, hedonistic yuppies. It's great. What you see in Not one less is the exact opposite. China: the country with a quarter of humanity within its borders, the country where poverty is a way of life, where a school desk has only three legs because the teacher decided to spend the money on chalk, where a schoolroom must cover broken windows with bits of newspaper to keep out the wind and rain...

If you want to understand why boat people are desperate enough to risk travelling the open seas in overcrowded, leaky boats then watch this movie. There is more poverty in this film than you will believe. Poverty and the persistence of humanity despite the circumstances. Why do people hang on to life when there is so little reward?

Not one less is not for the weak or sluggish of mind: it is for the discerning, mature audience who can sit through a movie without exploding buildings, crashing cars, sweaty sex or buckets of blood. It is for those who can appreciate the bewilderment of a child lost and the joy of a child found. See it.

Security censorship classification


Surveillance time

106 minutes (1:46 hours)

Not for public release in Australia before date

Film: 5 July 2000

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