Not One Less


NotOne Less



“Notone less” is a 1999 Chinese film shot in real life China andreleased in the US in 2000. The film directed by Zhang Yimou tellsthe story of a young girl, Wei Minzhi, acting as a substitute teacherfor a month in a village school serving poor peasants. The teacherseeks to motivate the young substitute teacher by promising an extraten Yuan payment if no child drops out of school within the month.This is a challenge to the young substitute teachers as schoolchildren are constantly lured to move to the big cities in search ofmenial jobs or to beg to support their families. As fate would haveit, the class’ naughty boy, Zhang Huike, skips schools and moves tothe nearby Zhangjiakou city in search of income to support hisfamily. The young Minzhi mobilizes her students and together set outto search for Huike with the intention to bring him back to school.


Thefilm highlights economic inequality and wealth gap between the ruralfolks of Hebei countryside and the people living in the city ofZhangjiakou. The film portrays wealth as something that breaks socialties between human beings as the people of the city are repeatedlydisplayed in a negative light courtesy of their economic status. Thepeople of Hebei countryside have remained united in their approach tolife and retained a sense of community courtesy of the poverty andthe hardships that they have to bear. They therefore have to rely andsupport one another. Take for instance the fact that the rural schoolcomprises of just one room which is dilapidated and chalk is rationedmeaning that they have to share the little resources and spacewisely. Additionally, they take solace in one another as have beenabandoned by the government as very few resources are provided to thepeople. Apparently, Minzhi, who is barely a teenager and untrained,is chosen as a substitute teacher because there are no othersubstitute teachers available.

Incontrast, the city is characterized by well paved roads, well dressedpeople and some not so well dressed people begging in the streets.These city people have well paying jobs while the people from thevillages can only rely on peasant farming as their means ofsustenance. It is also in the city that Minzhi is introduced into newthings such as soft drinks which are metaphorical representation ofthe city’ good life that the urban people are used to. To the urbanpeople, these good things in life that they can afford have made themlose their focus on humanity but instead only seek to attend to theirown personal needs leaving out others. In the city, there are beggarson the streets sleeping hungry while the city dwellers have plentybut they are unwilling to share.

Peoplefrom the city are considerably wealthy and portray decreased socialties to one another. The film portrays as people who worship theirjobs and careers. This is shown clearly in the film by Huike whodespite his tender age is begging in the streets. None among the citypeople is concerned about his presence in the streets to understandwhy he is begging in the streets as opposed to being in school. Thisis in glare contrast to the teacher, Minzhi and the students who areworried about the plight of children. The teacher providesinstructions to Minzhi to ensure that no children drop out of schoolto move to the city. Here, the teacher is portrayed as one with asoul and worried about the plight and future of her students. Sheappears convinced that education will be a tool to prosperity for thechildren in future.


ZhangYimou (dir/prod). Notone less.(1999). China. Columbia.