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UP THE YANGTZE

SYNOPSIS:
A luxury cruise boat motors up the Yangtze - navigating the mythic waterway known in China simply as 'The River'. The Yangtze is about to be transformed by the biggest hydroelectric dam in history - he Three Gorges Dam. At the river's edge, a young woman says goodbye to her family as the floodwaters rise towards their small homestead. The project will displace some two million people from their homes.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Canadian based Chinese filmmaker Yung Chang takes a luxury cruise up the Yangtze on one of the 'farewell cruises' before the Three Gorges Dam forever changes China's national river, in the process displacing some two million people. That's like everyone in Adelaide and Perth being moved out. It's progress for China, creating the world's largest hydro electric scheme - but it's costly in human terms.

The first shock is that the relocation isn't always gentle or assisted; some have to fend for themselves as best they can. We see them struggling to grow their own crops beside a makeshift hut they've built to call home. They eat by candlelight - but it's not a romantic decision. It's all there is. And any Government assistance is often gobbled up as it filters down corrupt officials, as one poor chap says.

Yung Chang takes time to talk to some of the people along the river, and this reveals the day to day concerns of ordinary people, such as whether to send a daughter to study for a future and thus threaten the family's income - and face the prospect of her resenting them later. And that's because the parents are illiterate. But he says nobody cares about him and his family. So much for the glories of Communism.

The cruise ships offer youngsters work opportunities - also life skills; what will take their place? We take side trips into the cities, all bustling like anywhere else in the world. Well, almost; some poor shopkeeper weeps for his country, where being an ordinary person is just too hard; powerless against corrupt bureaucracy, they have nowhere to turn.

The most surprising aspect of this wonderful documentary is how unselfconscious the subjects are. And the best thing about it is Yung Chang's discretion, largely letting the film speak for itself, avoiding unnecessary commentary. Like all the best documentaries, Up the Yangtze shows us something we've never seen before - with insight and meaning. Up the Ynagtze goes down in movie history as a work of lasting value.

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CRITICAL COUNT
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Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

UP THE YANGTZE (M)
(Canada, 2008)

CAST: Documentary

PRODUCER: Mila Aung-Thwin, Germaine Wong, John Christou

DIRECTOR: Yung Chang

SCRIPT: Yung Chang

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Shi Qui Wang

EDITOR: Hannele Halm

MUSIC: Olivier Alary

RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Gil Scrine Films

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 10, 2008







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