Up the Yangtze, a trip in turbulent waters

Up the Yangtze at the Havana Film Festival
Up the Yangtze at the Havana Film Festival


There are three paths to wisdom:
The first is reflection, which is the most noble;

The second is that of imitation, which is the easiest;
The third is that of experience, which is the most bitter.

HAVANA TIMES, Dec. 13.- With this thought of Confucious begins the documentary Up the Yangtze, a part of China in the eyes of Yung Chang, a Canadian with Chinese roots.

The film is about families displaced by the building of the Three Gorges Dam, one of the biggest in the world, and the effects it has not only on the geography. It considers a China about which not much is said-a China hidden in the hearts of millions of people who, though not in agreement with being relocated by the government, must accept it.

The film takes you on a trip via the almost ghostly waters that have taken over where farmland, crops and houses once were. It’s a trip that takes you to the impact of the change. One of the stories it tells us is about a very poor 16-year-old girl who must begin to work and forget about her studies.

When she goes aboard a cruise ship for the first time, the place where she will spend part of her time and earn her keep, tears flow from her eyes as if they were waters from the river. She is not ready for what she sees there: the Western world, the comforts, the work, all at the same time. It’s an initiation into a different life.

It isn’t only the young woman who suffers the sudden change; the rest of the family has to move in whatever manner they can before the river floods their house. They must forget their rural life and adapt to the city, which is more expensive, where they can’t grow anything, and where you have to buy everything.

We know that they all will adapt to their new life, some faster than others. They have no choice. What’s left is a bitter taste of abandoning the known, what you love. But in reality, the path of experience teaches, no matter how bitter.