Saturday, October 11, 2008

Up The Yangtze

This 2007 documentary by Canadian Yung Chang is really poetic sadness about the human price of progress. It is not my first documentary about the Yangtze River and the Three Gorges Dam and while both tell similar stories about the flooding, this one includes one additional element that will allow westerners to observe the huge difference between western and Chinese culture.

As in Jia Zhang ke documentary that I find it more like a film, Yung Chang documentary is also more a film that anything else as tells the story of two young Chinese that go to work in a luxury river cruiser. We have 16-year-old Yu Shui whose parents are not able to continue her education, as she needs to provide for the family especially when they will be reallocated away from the river. Then there is 19-year-old Chen Bo Yu an only child from a well-to-be family with ambitions that decides to work to make money instead of continuing his studies.

The most amazing part of the story is how both arrive to the ship and the training they receive to deal with western tourists. It is a true culture shock for them and for us western viewers too.

There are many beautiful views of the magnificent river, but I find that Jia Zhang ke’s Dong has superior cinematography and beauty; still, if I didn’t saw Dong (and outstanding Still Life) first, probably I could have appreciated more the cinematography here.

This multiple award and nominated documentary is one that many should see it for the incredible and basic differences Chang establishes between western and Chinese cultures; but if you want to see a masterpiece then I suggest you better watch Jia Zhang ke film and documentary.

But I also know that Up The Yangtze is more direct and easier to follow by general audiences, so I strongly recommend it to everyone that wants to be exposed to the human price of China modernization.


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