Up the Yangtze: A Meditation on Change in China

Michael Giberson

Up the Yangtze, a documentary by Yung Chang, examines changes along the Yangtze river in China due to the construction of the Three Gorges dam through the stories of two Chinese youth who took jobs on a cruise ship. The cruises are called “farewell tours” because they offer the chance to see parts of the Yangtze valley that will disappear under the reservoir created by the dam. In all, an estimated two million people will be displaced by the reservoir.

The film offers a slow-paced, almost meditative look at changes wrought by the growing body of water. Sorry energy policy geeks, while Up the Yangtze offers a few glimpses of the dam under construction, you get very little information about who, what, where, and why the dam. Instead you get a human interest story, a small slice of life. The documentary doesn’t rush you to any particular conclusion, just gives you material for further contemplation. I enjoyed it.

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