Tuesday, April 23, 2013

U is for Up The Yangtzee


Canada 2007
Running Length: 100 minutes
Cast: Cindy Yu Shui, Jerry Chen Bo Yu
Director:  Yung Chang
Cinematography: Wang Shi Qing

One of the undisputed and deserved hits of the recent International Film Festival, Up The Yangtzee is an outstanding documentary observing life on the soon-to-be flooded banks of the Yangtzee River.  With the landscape about to be changed dramatically by the biggest hydroelectric dam in history, we join a group of people on a farewell cruise down the river and meet some of the two million people who will be most affected by the floods.  Relocation is not always assisted and many people are being forced to fend for themselves after corrupt officials pocket money meant to help them.

On board the boat we meet two of the crew, young Chinese who have been given American names and taught to please foreigners.  “Cindy” tries her hardest, but middle-class “Jerry” needs to be reminded that conformity is considered a virtue in China.  These cruise ships offer work and opportunities to many young Chinese and there is nothing to take their place once the dam is built.

Side trips into the cities give another perspective on Chinese life.  One shopkeeper weeps for his country where just being an ordinary person has become too difficult amidst corrupt bureaucracy and relentless progress.  Director Yung Chang lets the subjects speak for themselves and avoids unnecessary commentary.  He is showing us something we have not seen before in an insightful and meaningful way.

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