The title of Zhang Yimou’s (‘Hero’, ‘Raise the Red Lantern’) love letter to the cinema refers to 24 frames of film in a Chinese propaganda movie from 1964 that may contain a fleeting glimpse of an unnamed escaped fugitive’s (Zhang Yi) estranged daughter. For this reason, he is desperate to get his hands on the film reel containing that one second—but so is crazy-haired orphan Liu (Liu Haocun), who wants the film in order to sell the celluloid as material to be used in the manufacture of other goods. Both of these outsiders are opposed by showman ‘Mr. Movie’ (Fan Wei), the ‘World’s Greatest Projectionist’ according to the slogan on his coffee mug, who travels the countryside and proudly shows the propaganda film in question… Set in 1975, Zhang’s deeply affecting—and occasionally very funny—film is a moving valentine to the cinema’s inherent potential to change lives.
‘Zhang Yimou's tale of the power of cinema has a gorgeous eye, a droll sense of humour, and a big, full celluloid heart… “One Second” is not just about the magic of the movies, it’s about their resilience, and so it’s fitting—even moving—that despite the omissions and additions that have been mandated by the Chinese censors since it was yanked from the 2019 Berlinale competition, the film survives so soulfully.’—Jessica Kiang, Variety