Up The Yangtze Yung Chang

Up The Yangtze Yung Chang
Up The Yangtze made several top ten lists in 2007 and deservedly so. This documentary of a luxury cruise boat crawling up the Yangtze River vividly illustrates the clash between ordinary Chinese peasants struggling against the upheavals caused by China’s massive dam project. Yu Shui is a teenage girl who leaves her shack nestled on the shore to work onboard in order to support her starving, illiterate family. In contrast, handsome Chen Bo Yu works on the cruise as a way of getting ahead. He’s the arrogant only son of a middle-class family and is typical of the Little Emperors found in this one-child nation. Meanwhile, the mega-dam is being built as the world’s biggest engineering project since the Great Wall. Merchants clash with corrupt government officials who demand bribes or force them to relocate. Gradually, the waters rise and literally wipe out the Chinese past in order to usher in a new age, one that is exciting yet troubling. Following a successful theatrical run, Up The Yangtze arrives on DVD in glorious widescreen and is padded with some smart extras. Deleted scenes offer a glimpse into the personal lives of the regular cruise staff whose screen time was limited in order to focus on the two teenagers. Director Yung Chang offers his demo reel; it includes a startling plea from several farmers to the outside world to recognize their oppression at the hands of an uncaring and corrupt government forcing them off their land. There is additional footage of the farmers demonstrating against police; it’s the kind of video that is never seen inside China and is rarely leaked to foreigners. The DVD can be forgiven for omitting a director’s commentary, given that documentary DVDs are lucky to see any bonus features, and the ones included here nicely complement the feature film. Overall, this is a fine package. (NFB-CBC)