Up the Yangtze

Rated 4.0

The Three Gorges Dam project is a century-in-the-works hydroelectric behemoth that is willfully changing the face of China, displacing over 1 million residents as the Yangtze River is permanently flooded. Yung Chang’s sensitive documentary Up the Yangtze tracks that change through two Chinese teenagers—a reserved farmer’s daughter and an arrogant city boy—working on a cruise ship ferrying ghastly Western tourists on a “farewell tour” of the river. Although it works too hard to form the material into an artificial narrative, Up the Yangtze works as a pictorial travelogue of a vanishing landscape, as an allegory for the shifting values of the Chinese culture and as a personal look at the necessary exploitation that goes hand in hand with a sudden embracement of capitalism.