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With Jim Sabatini


Up the Yangtze

Up the Yangtze

Rated: No rating 
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: August 8, 2008 Released by: Zeitgeist Films

While the Olympics descend upon Beijing, the People's Republic of China continues to modernize in a massive undertaking that may have an effect on the earth's rotational axis. Ironically, it doesn't eponymously bode well at all.

Up the Yangtze (with subtitles, in English, Mandarin and Sichuan) is an amazing documentary from Chinese-Canadian Yung Chang that looks at the impact of the massive hydroelectric project, the Three Gorges Dam. It is easily the largest public works project since the Great Wall begun in 1994 and slated to be finished in 2011 as work continues on this great waterway.

The filmmaker, funded in part by National Geographic, finds much beauty in something that is haunting and devastating. There isn't much concern in terms of ecology as towards those in shambles as a result of the razing of cities and towns.

The scaling down of the immensity of the displacement allows for something deeply poignant to emerge from the screen in centering on a destitute clan.

Instead of going to high school, teenage daughter Yu Shui is off to work aboard a cruise ship allowing a final vista of the landscape for tourist groups as a dishwasher.

She's called Cindy by her employers, with her and her colleagues obeisant to those not really aware of the ramifications of the project, going along with the importance of it as suggested by the government.

Up the Yangtze is obviously very political in nature, but comes across in a wrenching, trenchant way. Having the world's top athletes in state-of-the-art venues will help boost the economy, but there is much sadness when a small proprietor recalls what he went through while he was moved. Those who may be eager to see China in its grandeur before it goes forward for its people's future may not believe it to be as mighty as it thinks it is.

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