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The Green Life: Movie Review Friday -- Up the Yangtze

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June 20, 2008

Movie Review Friday -- Up the Yangtze

Escape to the movies with one of our "Film Fridays" selections. Each week we'll feature a movie review with environmentally or socially responsible themes that’s currently in theaters or available on DVD.

Seen a good eco-flick lately? Send us a review of 100 words or less and look for your review in the next Movie Friday!

Up the Yangtze

Written, directed, and narrated by Canadian filmmaker Yung Chang, Up the Yangtze explores the human impact of China’s enormous Three Gorges Dam Project on China’s largest river. The 600 ft. tall dam is on track to become the world’s largest hydroelectric power station in 2011. If all goes according to plan, the river's altered course will have displaced about 2 million people by then. Up the Yangtze focuses on the lives of Chinese citizens whose lives have already been changed by the rising waters. It follows one poor family that built a hut and subsistence farm along the riverbank after being flooded out of their home elsewhere on the Yangtze.

With illiterate parents who can’t afford to send her to college, the family’s oldest child, a 16-year-old girl, must work aboard a ship that takes American and European tourists on so-called “farewell cruises” of the Yangtze. She takes on the western name “Cindy” upon boarding the vessel, and works side by side with teens from relatively wealthy families.

In tracing Cindy’s struggle to adapt to this wildly different culture, the film also takes viewers on a farewell journey of the river. Shots of precipitous slopes rising unnaturally out of a flooded valley and the pale haze present in every scene remind us that China's explosive development has altered the lives of millions as much as the environment. More importantly, we catch a glimpse of the shifting ground where these two -- people and planet -- meet. Few films have shown this more clearly than Chang's Up the Yangtze.

--Michael Fox


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