The 1999 Golden Lion winner at Venice (after being denied a competition slot at Cannes), Zhang's film is a real audience pleaser. Shot in his vérité style, on real locations and using non-professionals, it tells of a 13-year-old substitute teacher drafted in to take over at a village school in the mountains, despite her obvious lack of qualifications. Promised a bonus if she keeps her class numbers up for a month, she determines to retrieve one pupil when he disappears to work in the city. The result is funny, heartwarming, and, frankly, sentimental - but it's not without some steel in its depiction of poverty and persistence. A pity Columbia insisted on a mawkish end-title card to ram the point home.