focuses on the cruise ships that take Western tourists to see the sights of the Yantgze river valley before they're destroyed by the controversial Three Gorges Dam project, which will not only flood a historic and cultural landmark but also displace over two million people from their homes. There's the desperately poor girl sent to work on the ship instead of going to high school so her parents can use the money to move from their illegal shack on the low banks of the river before it floods out, a supremely self-confident hustler porter who shakes down little old ladies on the ship for tips, the Chinese expatriate reflections of the director, and the exotica of the old China and the new.
At least in China, they made a plan before the historic neighborhood got flooded out: Faubourg Treme, like Up The Yangtze, is a hybrid of stories all centered around one geographic spot -- here, one of the first free African-American neighborhoods in America (directly north of the French Quarter in New Orleans). The movie jumps lightly from the story of the first civil rights journalist in America, to the personal reflections of the narrator as a newcomer to the area, to the story of the carpenter who's lived in Treme for years, the role of jazz music in the neighborhood's identity, and the devastation wrought on the neighborhood after Hurricane Katrina.
The dignity of individuals in the face of stark environmental disaster rang true throughout. Also, we're starting to think if we really wanted a challenge, maybe we should have tried to write this review in conjunction with the third documentary Flow: For The Love Of Water (which we didn't get a chance to see, alas).
Up The Yangtze and Faubourg Treme both screen at the Kabuki tomorrow, May 6. Faubourg Treme shows one more time at the Kabuki on Wed the 7th, and Up The Yangtze shows at the PFA on Thursday the 8th.Up The Yangtze