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Up the Yangtze 

Documentary mulls over the rapid changes in modern China

Canadian filmmaker Yung Chang takes his cameras to China's Yangtze River to document the enormous changes wrought since his grandfather made his home along the venerable waterway. Today, the river -- and life along it -- is irrevocably altered by the Three Gorges hydro-electric dam, the largest in the world. In this essay-like documentary, Chang, with limited narration, lets several intertwined stories play out the sad and occasionally humorous paradoxes of modern China. As one poor peasant loses his tiny farm to the rising waters, his disappointed teen-age daughter leaves school to work on the luxury cruise ships that take affluent Westerners "up the Yangtze" to see "old China" before it is submerged. The film also follows a self-interested, Westernized young man from a more affluent Chinese family. Community, individualism, money, family, tradition, the value of history, the necessity of progress, the embrace of the West, the disparity between the rich and poor -- it all plays out in a bittersweet tangle for these few players, standing in for the millions affected by the dam, and the billions likewise struggling to "go modern" throughout China. In English, and Mandarin, with subtitles. Starts Fri., Aug. 22. Harris (AH)

click to enlarge 34_caps_yangtze.jpg

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