| Not One Less (1999)
Director: Zhang Yimou
Lion for "Best Picture 1999 Venice International Film Festival"
演員 :張慧科 魏敏芝
The heart wrenching story of a rural school in China, Not One Less,
was a lot more work than a 'normal' film which uses professional actors,
its director Zhang Yimou tells JIMMY THOMSON at the Venice Film Festival
where it won The Golden Lion.
China’s best known director, Zhang Yimou,
is never one to shirk a challenge. The man revered both in his homeland
and overseas for his glorious Oscar-nominated epics, Raise The Red
Lantern and Ju Dou, could today be making sweeping movies with the
biggest stars in the country, full of color and light and magnificent
"Won The Golden Lion"
Not One Less is a terribly touching tale of a little village school
whose teacher has to be away for a month to tend to his ailing mother.
The mayor finds a substitute: a 13-year-old who’s barely finished school
herself, Wei Minzhi. Her task is two-fold. Of course, she has to run
classes but, most importantly, she has to make sure no children drop out
of the school, which is already suffering a dramatic fall in its number
So when a ten year old disappears to the city to earn money to help
his debt-ridden family, she also travels there to try and find him. It’s
a heart-rending search.
The extraordinary thing about the film is that everyone who took part
simply played themselves. The village mayor is a real life village
mayor, the teacher is a village teacher, the kids are just country
schoolchildren, and 13-year-old pupil Wei Minzhi was played by
13-year-old schoolgirl Wei Minzhi.
"It meant many takes and was very difficult to make," says Yimou, 49,
a slight figure in dark grey suit jacket and pants and black T-shirt.
"No Professional Actors"
"There were no professional actors. The girl who played the lead role
was chosen from tens of thousands of children. Each was given an exam.
We sent collaborators to all schools in area, a process that took 3-4
months. We had to look for a brave and smart girl able to speak in
public and cry and sing and who was not too shy. Each one we auditioned
was given five minutes to perform."
For the very last screen test, the final candidates were made to
stand in a crowded city street and yell whatever came into their heads
at the top of their lungs. Some got too nervous and couldn’t do it. Wei
just cut loose and shouted herself hoarse. She got the part.
After the film was finished and audiences started seeing her amazing
performance, a number of acting schools wrote to Wei, asking if she
wanted to take formal acting classes. She asked Yimou what she should
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English / Simplified Chinese
I - Suitable
for all audiences (roughly equal to an MPPA rating of
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contain nothing most parents will consider offensive for
their children to see or hear. Nudity, drug use, explicit
language, violence and adult situations are largely
absent, and if present are seen only briefly and at a