As so many of us are preparing for the new school year, I thought I’d blog this week about a wonderful Chinese film (in Mandarin but it has English subtitles) called Not One Less.
The film features a 13-year old girl named Wei Minzhi, who is called to be the substitute teacher for the village school when the teacher is suddenly called away to care for his mother. Left with no training, precious few resources, and a room full of students, the teacher tells her that when he returns he wants “not one less” student in the class and offers her 10 yuan if when he returns, they are all present. The village is quite poor and the parents struggle with sending the children for their education, when they might be able to work and help their families instead. So keeping the children in class is a very real challenge for our student-teacher.
The student who gives her the most difficulties disappears a few days after the teacher leaves, and our young teacher makes the decision to go after him to find him. We see how the class comes together to help and the long and arduous journey ahead of Wei to find young Zhang.
While this is not a film told from a Christian perspective, it is difficult for me to watch the story and not think of the parable that Jesus tells us about the shepherd and the lost sheep (Luke 15)…leaving the 99 to seek after the one who is lost. The film was directed by Zhang Yimou (who also directed another favorite of mine, The Road Home and I have discovered that he directed the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics too!) and is rated G. The cast of the film are all non-actors and most played roles similar to their own life stories. The film won awards at many festivals in 1999, when it was released. The Chinese government used the film to raise awareness of the economic disparity between urban and rural schools and to encourage education reform. It is a quietly powerful film and worth viewing if you have not seen it yet. The University Libraries has a copy of this film in our collections at the Marshburn Library.