Sunday, 9 September 2007

Not One Less (1999)

Having eaten the more sophisticated, brand name, sleek packaged food, there're times when we feel like eating something organic and natural; something that has no colouring or artificial flavour, and is wholesome, refreshing and nourishing for the body. If you find you're in one of those moments, you would like to check out this movie.

Not One Less (1999)This is a 100% authentic movie (ok, maybe 95% then). No props whatsoever. Just about all the 'actors' are real people playing themselves. But don't pooh pooh them because they aren't professionals. They all did a top notched job that would put many trained actors to shame. Perhaps, this is why they're so believable because they're not acting. And the kids in the school are absolutely adorable.

As usual, Zhang Yimou pulled off a very heartfelt story (at times delightful) where its simplicity and most of all, honesty is upheld at the highest regard throughout the film. Get your tissues ready.

Typical of most, if not all Chinese art-house films in general, and many Zhang films in particular, he addresses social issues. And in this case he highlights the income disparity between the city and country folks, the slow progress of the school reforms in rural areas, the plights they face everyday. Last but not least, the bureaucracy people face everyday. Teacher Wei's task of looking for a needle in a haystack in the city is made more difficult while she has to face bureaucracy every step of the way.

This film probably brings more awareness about the low level of education in the countryside in China than any media broadcast. Volunteering for school teachers in the villages become a cool and trendy things to do among the celebrities, thanks to Zhang and the persuasive power of a good story telling. Kid you not, I had the same impulse after the movie. And the humble chalks have never received higher respect.

I guess Zhang could be called the cinematic Charles Dickens of the 20th century China. It isn't hard to find Dickensian tales anywhere in China especially more than 20 years ago, or the countryside today where the living condition is probably not much better than the city folks endured 20 years ago. This is 1 reason why Zhang's movie concentrates so much on the country folks. There's no shortage of the tales of miseries. To find the kind of real life tales that made Charles Dickens or Victor Hugo famous during the industrial phase of the West, one only has to turn to China today.

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