Up The Yangtze



Opened April 25

"Up the Yangtze," a documentary about the massive and controversial Three Gorges dam in China, fails to engage with its subject matter. The dam, a hydro-electric power project, is the largest in the world, and has led to the forced relocation of over a million villagers, as well as environmental degradation on a vast scale. But 'Up The Yangtze' is more of a travelogue -- a tourist's view of the subject, which fails to put the relevant facts on the table. Theatrical potential looks limited, and TV stations might find it a bit too woolly.

The film by Canadian director Yung Chang pegs the story to a trip on a "Farewell" pleasure cruise which transports foreign tourists through the areas to be flooded by the dam. Along the way, Chang talks to an old lady who refuses to move out of the flood zone, and witnesses a small riot by angry villagers protesting about their compensation for relocation. These scenes are valid, but most of the film is taken up with day-to-day life on the boat. The focus is on the cultural differences between the Chinese ship workers and the foreign tourists, and this reveals little that isn't obvious.

"Up The Yangtze" needs a more journalistic approach to succeed. There are no facts and figures, and few interviews with anyone who is more than marginally connected to the dam project.

Distributor: Zeitgeist Films. Production: Eyesteel Film, The National Film Board of Canada.