Monday, July 07, 2008

Up the Yangtze

This Friday, Up the Yangtze opens in Denver at the Mayan Theatre at 110 Broadway. It looks at the project to build a humongous dam on the river with the goal of providing cleaner power to billions in China. Of course, such a project has consequences. Here's the report from ATT, who saw "Up the Yangtze" in Seattle:

Go see this documentary.

It's thoughtfully constructed, emotionally touching, and will have you talking for days afterwards.

So go see it with friends, so that you won't have to sit around talking to yourself.

Director Yung Chang analyzes the impact of the historic Three Gorges project from three angles. The introduction and many of the transitions consist of gorgeous panoramic shots with voiceovers by the director. He talks about his experience cruising the Yangtze River as a foreigner, of his grandfather's memories as a former native, and of the statistics of the project. He then introduces us to Yu Shui and Chen Bo Yu. Both youths apply to work upon a luxury cruise similar to the one that inspired the director to create this film. Through their eyes and words, we see the human impact of the project. We gain some insight of the Chinese culture, and an understanding of the citizens' views. Yu Shui and her family exemplify the more traditional Chinese way of thinking, valuing humility, respect for elders and authority, self-reliance, and the good of the many over the suffering of the few. Chen Bo Yu displays attitudes more closely aligned to stereotypical Western mindsets, speaking proudly of personal accomplishments, his ambitions, his individuality, his material desires, and of entitlement. We see their struggles to adapt to change on individual levels, and symbolically on a societal level.

Various snippets of foreign tourists on the cruise paint an unflattering caricature of rich, ignorant outsiders who fancy themselves enlightened after taking the tour. As an outsider, I felt torn by disgust and guilt at the business, but also a slight rationalization that the money being brought in was providing opportunities that many people might not have otherwise had.

Your experience of this movie may well be very different from mine. What I can say with certainty, is that this is a movie worth experiencing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Up the Yangtze" : A view of the gap between rich and poor in China, of advances being proposed for the good of the country as it re-emerges as a world power but also of the less-educated, poor citizens getting left behind. Though China has worked out compensation for those displaced by flooding, in practice, not everyone is getting their fair share or fair treatment, according to those interviewed in the film. In general, the film gives you a feeling of helplessness in what can be done to help raise the standard of living for the poor. Education, company jobs seem to be a start...also behind the scenes look at those Yangtze River cruises