Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Up the Yangtze (2007) - ★★★★

Director: Yung Chang
Writer: Yung Chang

Up the Yangtze is an extremely interesting documentary that really opened my eyes to how unfair things are for many families living in China. It doesn't go into great detail about political and economic situations, and it doesn't quite have a particular message to give.

Yung Chang quite simply presents to us the struggle of young Chinese people who go to work on a cruise-ship. More importantly, he details the detrimental effects the Three Gorges Dam is having on a poor family that lives by the Yangtze River, who will lose their home as the water rises.

I've been on a cruise before, where many Asian crew-members from all walks of life have served and had a conversation with me. I never truly stopped to think about how difficult it must be for them to be separated from family for as long as 6 months a year. That is until I saw Up the Yangtze. We mainly see the struggle of a young girl with the nickname Cindy, who has no choice but to work on a cruise-ship so that her parents can have enough money to rebuild their home. The home that will be lost due to the construction of the Three Gorges Dam. All I can really say is that it opened my eyes. All Cindy wanted to do was go to high-school and be educated, instead she had to work in order to save her family.

We also follow the story of a confident, handsome boy from a well-off family. He also goes to work on the cruise so that he can earn money and stop living off of his parents. It provided a very effective contrast, seeing this lucky young man have a choice between working and studying. While he complains and isolates himself from others, Cindy works her butt off because she sorely needs the job.

Up the Yangtze really made me appreciate living in a country full of choice and opportunity. At times it gets really emotional, but it's never sappy or manipulative. It's not about the facts, but rather the hard-hitting stories of people who are deeply affected by poverty and the Dam's construction. What I respect most about Yung Chang's documentary is that we get to see the opinions of average, every-day Chinese people who are constantly being brought down by poverty and corrupt officials. At time's it's really ballsy, I'm sure the Chinese government wouldn't appreciate the picture this film paints. We see how unfair life is for the poor in China in Up the Yangtze, which to me was such an eye-opening experience.

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