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With: Jerry Bo Yu Chen, Cindy Shui Yu, Campbell Ping He
Written by: Yung Chang
Directed by: Yung Chang
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: English, Mandarin, with English subtitles
Running Time: 93
Date: 09/30/2007
IMDB

Up the Yangtze (2008)

3 Stars (out of 4)

River of Tears

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: The documentary Up the Yangtze is a perfect companion piece to Jia Zhang-ke's Still Life. They both deal in certain ways with China's humongous Three Gorges project, although neither film ever goes into detail as to what the project is supposed to accomplish (presumably it will bring a lot of electrical power to China). Meanwhile, there will be lots of flooding and some 2 million people will be displaced. Up the Yangtze was made by an outsider, Canadian filmmaker Yung Chang, who becomes a fly on the wall and observes two young people, the sixteen year-old "Cindy" Shui Yu and the nineteen year-old "Jerry" Bo Yu Chen. They both go to work on the tourist riverboats that roam up the Yangtze River. Jerry is arrogant and loves money and the movie tends to keep a bit of distance from him. But Cindy's tale is heartbreaking. She comes from a very poor family that lives off the land on the side of the river. Forced to move because of the flooding, the family is unable to send Cindy to school. She must make money instead. On her first day of washing dishes aboard the boat, she bursts into tears. While all this is going on American tourists parade through the boat, making brain-dead comments about how China is more "modern" than they thought. This is a sad film to be sure, but highly accomplished and very effective. I haven't yet decided on my favorite festival documentary, but this is a top contender.

DVD Details: Zeitgeist released the 2008 DVD, with deleted scenes, powerful time-lapse footage of the actual flooding, a 2006 "research demo," and trailers.

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