LACONIA — The Laconia Human Relations Committee in cooperation with the Laconia Public Library presents Not One Less, Monday, December 2 at 6:20 p.m. This is another in the International Film Series shown monthly at the Laconia Public Library.
Set in the People's Republic of China during the 1990s, Wei, a thirteen year-old girl, is called upon to substitute for a village teacher for one month. The teacher has an emergency in his family and has been given a one month leave. His only instructions to Wei are to have the students copy certain pages out of a master copy book each day. She is told that she will not be paid if she loses even one student. At 13 with only a primary school education, she is, to say the least, inexperienced to handle a large class of elementary school boys and girls. Two students, in particular, cause her grief. Her persistence and resourcefulness create an amazing adventure.
The film casts only amateur actors whose real-life names and occupations resembled those of characters they play in the film. Wei is amazing in her role. In the 90s, primary education reform had become one of the top priorities in the People's Republic of China. About 160 million Chinese people had missed all or part of their education due to the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and early 70s. By 1993, it was clear that much of the country was making little progress on implementing compulsory education, so the 1993–2000 seven-year education plan focused on getting children into school and keeping them there. One of the major challenges educators faced was the large number of rural schoolchildren dropping out to pursue work.
The director, Zhang Yimou's, filmed the movie on location in Hebei province involving hidden cameras and natural lighting. He worked closely with government censors during production of the film. Though pressed not to show China as too backward or too poor, it gives a realistic view of rural China today. The film won the Venice Film Festival's Golden Lion Award and several others.