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Zhang Yimou is my favorite director. I like just about everything he has ever done except for the three movies he made for American audiences (Hero, House of Flying Daggers, and Curse of the Golden Flower)
In Not One Less, he treats the audience to life in a primary school in rural China. The English subtitles are hard-coded into the film. There were no other subtitles.
In a remote mountain village, the teacher must leave for a month, and the mayor can find only a 13-year old girl, Wei Minzhi, to substitute. The teacher leaves one stick of chalk for each day and promises her an extra 10 yuan if there's not one less student when he returns. When one of the boys takes off in search of work in the big city, she goes looking for him. It is filmed in a neorealist/documentary style with a troupe of non-professional actors who play characters with the same names and occupations as the actors have in real life, blurring the boundaries between drama and reality.
The domestic release of Not One Less was accompanied by a Chinese government campaign aimed at promoting the film. Critical reaction to the film abroad was mixed, with some critics praising its unusual style and apparently critical stance on Chinese education reform, and others decrying it as a pro-government propaganda piece and public service announcement. When it was excluded from the 2000 Cannes Film Festival's highest level of competition, Zhang withdrew it and another film from the festival, and published a letter rebuking Cannes for politicization of and "discrimination" against Chinese cinema. The film went on to win the Venice Film Festival's Golden Lion and several other awards, and Zhang won the award for best director at the Golden Rooster Awards.
(Did I do it right this time?)
Additional note: I did not see that this movie was already posted and started a new thread with this release. I was advised to move it to this thread.