In China, it is simply known as "The River." But the Yangtze--and all of the life that surrounds it--is undergoing a truly astonishing transformation wrought by the largest hydroelectric project in history, the Three Gorges Dam. Canadian documentary filmmaker Yung Chang returns to the gorgeous, now-disappearing landscape of his grandfather's youth to trace the surreal life of a "farewell cruise" that traverses the gargantuan waterway.
With Altmanesque narrative agility, a humanist gaze and wry wit, Chang's Upstairs Downstairs approach beautifully captures the microcosmic society of the luxury liner. Below deck: A bewildered young girl trains as a dishwasher--sent to work by her peasant family, who is on the verge of relocation from the encroaching floodwaters. Above deck: A phalanx of wealthy international tourists set sail to catch a last glance of a country in dramatic flux. The teenaged employees who serve and entertain them--now tagged with new Westernized names like "Cindy" and "Jerry" by upper management--warily grasp at the prospect of a more prosperous future.
Singularly moving and cinematically breathtaking, Up the Yangtze gives a human dimension to the wrenching changes facing not only an increasingly globalized China, but the world at large.
- New anamorphic master, created from Hi-Def elements and enhanced for widescreen TVs
- Twelve deleted scenes
- Time-lapse flooding footage of the Yangtze River
- 2006 Research Demo Reel
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired
- Optional Traditional Mandarin subtitles
- Stereo and Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks
After taking a "farewell cruise" up the Yangzte, Yung Chang returned to document the experience before time ran out. What the Chinese-Canadian filmmaker saw in 2002 will disappear in subsequent years as the rising waters of the Three Gorges Dam submerge the villages along the riverbanks. Chang takes a two-pronged approach in shadowing a pair of luxury liner workers, petite 16-year-old Yu Shui (renamed Cindy) and rangy 19-year-old Chen Bo Yu (Jerry), concentrating most of his attentions on the former. While the shy Yu Shui caters to the needs of well-heeled Westerners in order to assist her poverty-stricken family, her relations make plans to leave Fengdu before the Yangtze swoops in (the outspoken Chen Bo Yu hails from the similarly threatened Kai Xian). As the landscape around them turns into a second Atlantis, the teenagers change, as well, in ways both positive and negative. To survive in modern-day China, it appears, Westernization is inevitable, which Chang (third-generation Canadian) neither celebrates nor condemns. Instead, he questions the ways in which economic progress erodes--sometimes even destroys--personal and cultural values. In the illuminating booklet interview that accompanies the DVD, Chang admits he was inspired by the large-scale Three Gorges photography of fellow Canadian Edward Burtynsky, which makes the more intimate Up the Yangtze an ideal companion piece to the Burtynsky-oriented Manufactured Landscapes--and a terrific feature in its own right. Further extras include time-lapse river footage, a 2006 demo reel, and substantial deleted scenes, which play almost like short films. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
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