Up the Yangtze takes a close look at the effects of the construction of China’s Three Gorges Dam, which is altering the landscape and the lives of people living along the fabled Yangtze River. Filmmaker Yung Chang shows us both the bigger picture — the transformation of the river by the biggest hydroelectric dam in history, and the rapid changes in the Chinese economy — as well as the details — 16-year-old Yu Shui, the shy daughter of an illiterate farmer who goes to work on a Farewell cruise ship in order to provide for her family.
Up the Yangtze airs on most PBS stations on Wednesday, October 8 at 10 PM. (Schedules vary, so check your local listings.)
Yung talked about how his film relates to the bigger picture of China’s modernization and development in his POV filmmaker interview:
I think Up the Yangtze relates to the bigger picture in many ways, and I was hoping to use this surreal luxury cruise boat that travels up and down the Yangtze River as a sort of microcosm to explore bigger issues. On this boat, you have western tourists from around the world who come to wave goodbye to the disappearing landscape above deck, and below there are crew workers who are mostly from families who live along the Yangtze River. In a way, I was exploring a miniature version of contemporary China, where successful Chinese are already standing side by side with the western tourists, while below deck the Chinese workers are trying to climb up that ladder.
Read more from Yung Chang‘s interview, and check out our fascinating filmmaker roundtable in which Yung and several other filmmakers who have made documentaries in China discuss their experiences filming in contemporary China.
Do you have a question for Yung Chang? Enter it in the comment field below, and he will select a few questions and answer them the week of October 13, 2008.
Added October 22, 2008: Yung answered viewer questions about his continuing relationship with the characters in his film, how viewers can contact Cindy Yu Shui and the fate of the elderly Christian woman from the film. Read his responses to viewer questions.