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Up the Yangtze

4.5 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

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.

SPECIAL FEATURES:
- 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

Amazon.com

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

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Cindy Shui Yu, Jerry Bo Yu Chen
  • Directors: Yung Chang
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Anamorphic, Color, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Zeitgeist Films
  • DVD Release Date: November 18, 2008
  • Run Time: 93 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001CCY42U
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #68,852 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Up the Yangtze" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
"Yangtze" could be described as the mirror reverse of many popular dramatic stories in which a hero is searching the world to rediscover or rebuild a home. Set in China as the massive Three Gorges Dam was completed, this haunting documentary is the story of a teen-age girl, Yu Shui, who has a warm and loving home -- but winds up homeless in the rapidly shifting landscape of modern China.

The documentary comes to DVD, via Zeitgeist Films, with an impressive pedigree. The PBS network aired it nationally. Various regional film festivals bestowed honors. Critics love the film.

It's an amazing piece of documentary filmmaking, because we see footage shot by candlelight in Yu Shui's tiny ramshackle farmhouse along the Yangtze River. Her parents know that the level of the Yangtze is about to rise dramatically, when the enormous dam is completed. They know that their tiny farm will be washed away. Meanwhile, Yu Shui is contemplating her own dreams of training for a profession.

Over a meager family dinner of noodles one evening, she dares to tell her parents that she hopes to continue her education because she knows that China needs "talented, educated" young people. She's hoping to become a professional and wants to help shape the world's future, she explains.

But her parents are illiterate. Their family situation is dire. They tell her that her plans must be put on hold.

Instead, Yu Shui is signed onto one of the luxury cruise ships that now carry tourists down the ever-widening Yangtze River. She is renamed Cindy, given a uniform and a small bunk on a lower deck of the big ship and sent into the kitchen to wash dishes. Eventually, she is taught how to interact with American guests and is allowed to help serve food in the dining room.
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The film is a documentary primarily about a Chinese family living in the town of Fengdu on the Yangtze River. The world's largest dam project, The Three Gorges Dam, will displace about two million people who live along the river when it is completed. Is this progress or destruction? The film does not attempt to answer the question. It simply tells the story of this family and several others whose lives are affected by the new dam. Yu Shui, the 16 year old daughter, wants to be the first to go on to higher education after finishing middle school. The family, however, knows their future is changing as their home (shack really) on the river will soon be underwater when the dam is completed. That means they will have to rent somewhere and will no longer be able to grow their own food. Yu will have to go to work and earn money to go to school. The film follows this shy, young girl and another, outgoing, young man as they are hired by a luxury cruise ship on the Yangtze catering to wealthy European and North American tourists. They must both learn how to please (cater to) these visitors. Her parents also must cope with the changes happening in their lives. This is a film about real people whose lives are being changed by forces beyond their control and they must adapt to a lifestyle that is both unfamiliar and uncomfortable. The contrast between these people and the 'westernized' Chinese of the larger cities that they visit on the ship's itinerary is also portrayed. As China's economy grows and they gain access to more and more of the world's goods and services, the people, whether they want to or not, are being forced to change. The film doesn't judge the merits, it simply tells the stories. One more opportunity to get acquainted with people from this giant country that has come on to the world stage with such great force. Like it or not, we need to know as much as we can about the people we are joined with at the hip in so many ways. Enjoy.
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This documentary show a segment of tourism in China today. It shows the changing family life and widely divergent cultures of American tourists and the Chinese who are supporting the travel cruises. I travelled with the same ship/crew on the Yangtze and was suprised by how accurately the personalities were shown. This is an excellent look at China's youth and the new capitalism in China.
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I can certainly appreciate progress and absolutely recognize that it is essential, however the cost and sacrifice of this project appeared to fall solely on a class of people already struggling and suffering greatly even prior to their displacement due to the dam. It is difficult to see that nothing was done to ensure even the safety of these people, let alone aid their relocation efforts.

There is a sobering moment in the film where a man who has just been purged from his home, way of life, and one would assume his dignity, looks straight into the camera as he declares with great pride that his country is now so prosperous, powerful and strong because it has stopped such a big and mighty river, even though it has cost him everything. It is sobering. The film was heart wrenching and it was difficult to watch. I watch many documentaries on many different issues and topics, but this one was just so devastatingly sad. You wanted so much for there to ba a ray of hope for these people, and yet the truth that there was none was so painfully obvious. I cannot honestly say that I would recommend this film.
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Very interesting documentary. Opens up many perspectives. Watched this before I went to live in China for years, so I now know that it's a little bit off in some respects. Spot on in others though. Overall a good watch. 8.5/10
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