Universal acclaim - based on 17 Critics What's this?

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Generally favorable reviews- based on 14 Ratings

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  • Summary: In China, it is simply known as 'The River.' But the Yangtze—and all of the life that surrounds it—is undergoing an astonishing transformation wrought by the largest hydroelectric project in history, the Three Gorges Dam. Chinese-Canadian director Yung Chang returns to the gorgeous, now-disappearing landscape of his grandfather’s youth to trace the surreal life of a “farewell cruise” that traverses the gargantuan waterway. With a humanist gaze and wry wit Chang’s Upstairs Downstairs approach captures the microcosmic society of the luxury liner. Below deck: a bewildered young girl trains as a dishwasher sent to work by her peasant family, who is on the verge of relocation from the encroaching floodwaters. Above deck: wealthy international tourists set sail to catch a last glance of a country in dramatic flux. The teenage employees who serve and entertain them—tagged with new Westernized names like “Cindy” and “Jerry” by upper management—warily grasp at the prospect of a better future. "Up the Yangtze" gives a human dimension to the wrenching changes facing not only an increasingly globalized China, but the world at large. (Zeitgeist Films) Expand
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 17 out of 17
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 17
  3. Negative: 0 out of 17
  1. Reviewed by: G. Allen Johnson
  2. An astonishing documentary of culture clash and the erasure of history amid China’s economic miracle.
  3. Filmmaker Yung Chang finds a sad and beautiful way to glimpse the big picture of dislocation through an exquisitely poised small study.
  4. Trained in Sanford Meisner's acting techniques, the director wrests surprisingly emotional disclosures from his subjects.
  5. Reviewed by: Scott Foundas
    By journey's end, Yung has found, in the Yangtze, a brilliant natural metaphor for upward mobility in modern China: Whether they hail from the lowlands or the urban centers, everyone here is scrambling to reach higher ground.
  6. 75
    If, like me, you're both desperate to see new public-works systems in our own country and sensitive to the possible human and ecological damage, Up the Yangtze provides a devastating view of top-down, broad-stroke social programs.
  7. 63
    China's public image suffers another blow with Up the Yangtze, a documentary by Chinese-Canadian Yung Chang.

See all 17 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 6 out of 7
  2. Negative: 0 out of 7
  1. David
    May 9, 2009
    The father is one of the most interesting, but tragic characters I have ever seen caught on film. His recognition of change, and his responsibilities outweigh any anger he has about relocating. Simply a stunning documentary, one that should be seen by anybody who has bought a product from China, aka everybody! Expand
  2. JD.
    May 22, 2008
    Whenever the focus switches back to Yu Shui's saga, the film quickly regains its affecting resolve. No more so than in the long, lingering shot of her peasant father who, as the water level rises, is carting off what's left of his home, bearing the load on his back, trudging step by weary step up the steep incline of the riverbank. In mid-climb, the man pauses and, in that frozen instant, belongs both to tomorrow's uncertain world and to yesterday's harsh myth Expand
  3. AnnieS.
    Oct 16, 2008
    Devastatingly haunting, heart-breaking, and beautiful. One of the most stunning and important films of our time.
  4. PeterL.
    Apr 27, 2008
    An amazing, intimate - and chilling - look at the changes that are wracking China ... and how they are affecting the lives of both young and old. Far from the bright lights of Shanghai, already-precarious existences are put at risk. Expand
  5. Gabriel
    Jul 6, 2008
    Very powerful film. I'm not sure what Dyna is talking about, of course the subject outweighs the film, the subject matter is heavier than lead.
  6. RobertI.
    Jun 8, 2008
    An affecting documentary, witnessing the rise and fall of contemporary China. By focusing on a young woman's wrenching away from her precarious family home, we get an intimate glimpse of her expanding universe, at once thrilling and somehow sooty and spoiled. Sadness and loss teeter on the brink of the rising waters, which bear prosperity, hope, and our imperfect world to China. Expand
  7. DynaM.
    May 17, 2008
    Filmmaker doesn't have a steady balance of form or style. Unevenly audition different methods of filmmaking into one piece. Subject outweighs the film. Expand