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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. Within days, poverty forces the class troublemaker, Zhang Huike, to leave for the city to work. Minzhi, possessed of a stubborn streak, determines to bring him back. She enlists the 26 remaining pupils in earning money for her trip. She hitches to Jiangjiakou City and begins her search. The boy, meanwhile, is there, lost and begging for food. Minzhi's stubbornness may be Huike and the village school's salvation. Written by
It might be a good idea to show this film in all schools in the `civilised' world! This is, anyway, a delightful story for all the family, hugely enjoyable, simply and lovingly told, and with just the most marvellous little Chinese girl imaginable! She has to stand in for the local schoolmaster who very definitely must go and visit his mother who is ill and dying. He leaves her in the middle of about twenty kids only a couple of years younger than herself to get on with the job as best she can, so as to earn 50 yuan in a school which is falling apart.
Now you might think that such a building could not possibly be a schoolhouse in remote rural China, or anywhere else. I assure you I have seen such schools and not in such remote areas in Indonesia, India, Afghanistan and in what was Portuguese Timor. Even here in Spain, in rural villages high up in the sierras, my wife has worked in schools in little villages where either the floorboards were rotting under her feet in front of the blackboard, or the plumbing did not work, or the lights did not switch on when you wanted them to, or the wood-burning stove in the middle of the room gave off billows of smoke so that you had to open the windows with 10ºC below zero outside, or the window panes had no putty in them, and so on. And this, only a few years ago, in a modern, civilised European country.
Minzhi Wei playing the part of Wei Minzhi, who is herself with her own name (in Chinese the surname is put first) is a thirteen year old who will never make it to Hollywood, but is just the most beautiful school mistress you could imagine! I will not say anything about the story: you can see it for yourself. This young girl had to do it all she is barely ever off the screen.
Yimou Zhang has given us a little gem, a beautiful story, with such wonderful participation by all those children, as well as the fine photography and Bao San's occasional accompanying music.
How nice to see a lovely story so naturally told! Can't we do things like this in Europe and the USA without it being all violence or overladen commercialism for the hungry masses? Can't we tell a real human story without all the technological special effects? Can't we make honest cinema .?
23 of 23 people found this review helpful.
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