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Not One Less review

Leading Fifth Generation Chinese film-maker Zhang Yimou continues to move away from his earlier melodramas with this docu-realistic contemporary drama.

Winner of the Golden Lion prize at the Venice Film Festival, Not One Less tells the story of 13-year-old peasant girl Wei Minzhi, who becomes a substitute teacher in a remote village in Shanxi province. Warned by the gruff mayor not to lose any more of the students, the barely literate newcomer struggles to impose order on her charges and cope with the primitive conditions. But when the class troublemaker disappears to the city, she's determined to bring him back...

Despite an upbeat ending and some comical interludes, Not One Less doesn't flinch from the grim realities of rural poverty. Shot with simple directness, and sturdily acted by the non-professional cast, it's hard not to feel moved by Wei Minzhi's perseverance in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

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