Using state-of-the-art equipment, a group of activists, led by renowned dolphin trainer Ric O'Barry, infiltrate a cove near Taijii, Japan to expose both a shocking instance of animal abuse and a serious threat to human health.
A luxury cruise boat motors up the Yangtze - navigating the mythic waterway known in China simply as "The River." 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 modern China. Written by
National Film Board of Canada
I finally watched this film during its third run at a local art-house cinema, having missed it on two previous occasions. I enjoyed the film, but at the same time felt it could have been done better. The knitting could have been tighter.
Ten years ago I took a boat trip up the Yangtze, starting from ChongQing. No, I was not on a 5-star cruiser depicted in this film. My boat was much more modest, and smaller. At night I could hear rats racing across the ceiling. But it was, nevertheless, an enjoyable trip. The water level was much lower at that time, so the cliff faces were higher and more impressive. What I once saw is now mostly submerged, as was chronicled in this film. Taking this trip 'Up the Yangtze' again on the big screen sure brought back fond memories.
Overall I find the focus on the demise of a poor family affected by the rising water level, and the activities surrounding large cruise ships catering to well-off visitors from around the world to be a good and relevant backdrop to this informative documentary. The acting and interviews were well conducted, with unforced ease and human sentiment. At the end, you draw your own conclusion who to sympathize with, whether you want to point fingers at the establishment, or just resign to the fact that progress toward modernization, in any country, comes with a price.
As the end credits rolled on the screen, a band played 'To traverse a big sea you need a good navigator', a song composed and forced into the ears of every Chinese national during the Culteral Revolution - in praise of Mao, the 'Navigator'. It was a great propaganda song but the band, using inappropriate instruments, made a mess of it and it sounded like white noise. I don't know why the director did not chose the far more superior 'choir' version, which would have been more becoming to close out a good documentary. This is just one example of how some fine-tuning and refinements could have brought this film one step closer to being a masterpiece.
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