Feb. 9, 2008

Up the Yangtze

I saw the new documentary Up the Yangtze this evening. When my friend Adrian suggested we go see it my first thought was of the Monty Python record album sketch of a made-up football supporter's song praising the river - "Szechuan is the province, Shanghai's the port. Yangtze is the river that we all support!" In the end Adrian couldn't come so Sheryl and I went without him on the opening night.

What a great film! The director Yung Chang found the perfect family to focus on, peasants scraping out a living in the shadow of the Three Gorges dam, with the water rising inexorably around their shack and their daughter being sent to work on the cruise ships that run up and down the river. Following them showed the human reality of this massive civil engineering project. To me it was the story of China's headlong rush "into the future", with tradition and humanity discarded without a backward glance... Yung managed to capture some very vulnerable moments as his subject family was forced to make desperate choices. The film's web site is uptheyangtze.com. Yung was in the audience for our screening and gave us an update on his subject's lives since filming was completed.

Update: The director's parents used to be my parent's neighbours! My parents came back from a Yangtze cruise about 12 years ago and urged them to take their Canadian born and raised sons to see China. The rest is history...

I suppose I have to be honest and report a personal tragedy. I managed to upgrade my iPhone too enthusiastically and it's now non-functional because of conflicts with the hacks that enabled me to use it in Canada. I'm kicking myself, and have fallen back to my Motorola Razr that doesn't dial 9. There'll be a way forward again in a few weeks...

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