Not One Less

Not One Less, directed by Zhang Yimou, 2001, China

Wei Minzhi, 13 year-old student in a rural village middle school in Bebei Province, called upon as a substitute teacher in Shuiquan Primary School where the regular and the only teacher has to be away for a little while; promised a small amount of money (50 yuan) if by the time her term is over there are as many students as when she starts; faithfully calls the roster every day and then sets the students to copying lessons from the blackboard; is not overly concerned about whether the students actually learn anything as long as they stay put; ends up doing a very good job and no one drops out during her watch

Teacher Gao, of the Shuiquan Primary School; has to be away from school for a month to tend to his ailing mother; but does not want a 13-year old girl to teach students who are her own age or slightly younger; has 40 students at the beginning of the school year, but increasing attrition has brought that number down to 28; 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

Village Head, has to find a replacement teacher when teacher Gao is away; agrees to accept Wei Minzhi as the substitute because finding anyone in that rural area who is willing to take the job is not easy, and that at the least she can keep an eye on things while Teacher Gao is away; less concerned than Wei Minzhi about the precise number of kids in class, although genuinely cares about the well being of the kids in his village

Zhang Huike10 years old, one of Teacher Gao’s students; bright but naughty who often tries Wei’s patience; family in serious financial debt; has to go to the city to find work; lost in the city but found again when Wei Minzhi goes into the city and tries to locate him like a needle in a haystack;


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