up the yangtze

November 26, 2008

uptheyangtze

I’m creating my very own IDFA here in Oslo this week. Canadian-born Chinese director Yung Chang made Up the Yangtze over a year of living in the region and following a local family due to lose their home when the Three Gorges were dammed up. Their oldest daughter is sent to work on a river cruise ship instead of continuing school, to help support the family once they lose their livelihood (subsistence farming) and home.

It’s not that the director doesn’t love his subject, as he describes his experience during filming warmly. But the resulting film seemed superficial and a little cold. Perhaps – as was alluded to – he didn’t find the China he was expecting from his grandfather’s tales.

At the risk of sounding callous, I didn’t feel the film told me anything new about this issue, apart from reinforcing two thoughts I already had. Specifically, the back-breaking, grinding poverty of some Chinese today, and that it will be a long time before I step foot on a cruise ship. Disappointing.

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