“Notone less” is a Chinese film narrating the status of education andeducation reforms in China. The film is about a young teenage girl,Wei Minzhi, who is called up by the local Mayor to act as asubstitute teacher in a local rural school. The substitute teacher ispromised a ten yuan bonus if she ensures that no children drop out ofschool in the one month that she will be teaching. Desperate formoney, the substitute teacher is keen to see that not one child dropsfrom school. However, when one drops from school she is not justdriven by money as her self determination is evident as she goes togreat lengths to bring back, Zhang Huike, who drops out of school togo and seek work in a nearby city, Zhangjiakou.
Theaudience comes face to face the determination, desperation and thepoverty that characterise the countryside of Hebei. The schoolbuilding is nearly collapsing and other amenities are nonexistent. Atfirst, the girl is driven by her financial situations to pursue thebonus that the teacher promises if she can manage to retain all thestudents in class for the one month she will be a substitute teacher.This prompts her to ignore the mischievousness of her students and goon teaching to retain her position as a substitute teacher and hersalary. As such, her determination to be a teacher despite thechallenges such as poor resources including rationed chalk drives herto performs her job to the best of her abilities in spite of beinguntrained in that area. The odds are stacked up against thisinexperienced young girl, but her determination sees her push her waythrough as a teacher.
Thechildren are largely undisciplined but she is determined to teachthem and instil discipline in them. Her temperament as part of herdetermination is commendable. This is observed in the way she handlesher students who are being naughty and mischievous in class. Thenaughty boy in class, Huike topples a table she insists on him tocollect and reorganize the teachers table to serve as a lesson. Shegoes as far as dragging the young boy from the desk when he showshesitance. Such behaviour was most likely triggered by the fact thatMinzhi was barely older than her students. However, she wasdetermined to utilize this proximity in age to her advantage byseeking to understand the students better.
Determinationto see that the children get an education is also evident. Minzhitravels to the city in search of Haiku to bring back him back to thevillage and continue with his education. Minzhi’s determination toenforce discipline and impart some academic skills in the childrenshow results in the manner that the children mannerism in classchanges as well as their academics performance. She is thus moredetermined not to allow Huike miss out on this advancement. The girlunderstands the value of education and the need to be persistent inits pursuit. She therefore goes to great lengths of searching forHaiku n the big city overcoming odd after odd. Her pleas for helpfrom people in the big city do not yield much but she does not giveher search. She employs strategy after strategy to find Heiku not inthe least way motivated by money until she finds Huike.
Thefilm teaches the audience that money is not everything. It shows thelove and the progress that a united people can achieve despite thelack of necessary resources. The rationed chalk, bad mannerism,dilapidated class and mean people did not deter Minzhi to accomplishwhat she had set to in the very beginning.
ZhangYimou (dir/prod). Notone less.(1999). China. Columbia.