Pierre et Yolande Perrault Award 2008 - RVQC
A luxury cruise boat motors up the Yangtze, navigating the mythic waterway known in China simply as “the river.” See it while you can: the Yangtze is about to be transformed by the biggest hydroelectric dam in history. At the river’s edge, a young woman says goodbye to her family as the floodwaters rise towards their small homestead. The Three Gorges Dam, contested symbol of the Chinese economic miracle, provides the epic backdrop for Up the Yangtze, a dramatic feature documentary on life inside the 21st century Chinese dream. Chinese-Canadian filmmaker Yung Chang crafts a moving depiction of peasant life, a powerful narrative of contemporary China, and a disquieting glimpse into a future that awaits us all.
A word from Tënk
Between 1994 and 2012, China launched its largest feat of engineering since the Great Wall: building the largest hydroelectric dam in the world over 600 kilometres of the Yangtze River.
These colossal efforts, responsible for the displacement of over 1.8 million inhabitants, smell like good business. Luxury cruises for tourists are organized so Westerners can watch as over 1,300 historic and archeological sites, along with the river valley that has been cultivated for millennia, are engulfed by water.
The decks of the ship represent a well-defined world order. On the lower decks we find Yu Shui, a poor peasant worker renamed Cindy for the tourists. For his part, Chen Bo Yo (nicknamed “Jerry”), an uncompromising only child of a middle-class family, dreams of climbing the ranks.
A magnificent photograph closes the story, with the river as a symbol of modern China. Ancient and venerated sites disappear under the water, leaving space for candy-coloured apartment towers that sprout up along the new coastline like mushrooms. The poorest are abandoned to a world that is literally remaking itself under their feet.
Back on the boat, Chen Bo Yo, victim of his own overconfidence and arrogance, loses his job to the valiant Yu Shui, who is offered a new role, moving up in the hierarchy. Meanwhile, her family gathers their belongings, packing up before their family home is swallowed by the water.
Filmmaker, teacher and programmer