UP THE YANGTZE — *** — Documentary feature about China's Three Gorges Dam project; with English subtitles (Chinese dialects); not rated, probable PG-13 (profanity, violence, slurs)

A couple of recent films have tried to tackle the subject of the Three Gorges Dam, a construction project that's already affected things around the world, not just in its homeland, China.

Of these, "Up the Yangtze" is arguably the best movie. Though it is a bit slow-moving, this documentary feature is visually stunning.

And interestingly, filmmaker Chang Yung puts as much effort looking at the human toll taken by the dam as he does looking at the supposed environmental damage it's caused.

As promised by the film's title, Canadian director Chang focuses on China's major tributary, the Yangtze River. It was a longtime goal of late leader Mao Zedong was to harness the river's resources.

Though this years-in-the-making construction project is still in progress, it has forced the relocation of many residents whose small villages are about to be flooded out of existence by the river's diversion.

Many of them have moved to cities, where they're now living in poverty. Others have taken employment on luxury cruise ships that are sailing up and down the Yangtze.

Chang interviews a few of these teens, including one who's been officially renamed "Cindy" by her new employers. Cindy's new lot in life is washing dishes, which she finds demeaning and isn't too thrilled about.

Like the 2006 documentary "Manufactured Landscapes," which briefly touched on Three Gorges as well, the film has long silent stretches.

But the landscapes here are pretty magnificent, and Chang does have fun observing the cultural differences between the tourists and the ship staff.

"Up the Yangtze" is not rated but would probably receive a PG-13 for scattered strong profanity (including one usage of the so-called "R-rated" curse word), brief, violent imagery (some rioting and other civil disobedience), and a few racial and other derogatory slurs. Running time: 94 minutes.


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