First conceived in 1919 to tame annual flooding that routinely took thousands of lives, the controversial damming of the world’s 3rd largest river didn’t begin until 1993. Besides giving ocean-going vessels access to poor western provinces that have lagged behind in China’s development, the Three Gorges Dam provides as much electricity as 100 coal plants, a clean energy alternative for a country whose energy needs have increased dramatically. None of this is discussed in this film, which focuses on the plight of the 2 to 4 million displaced. As the waters rise, cities, villages and culture have been submerged, leaving the peasant class to fend for itself. Up the Yangtze focuses on one such family. The parents are illiterate but hard workers who’ve already lost two shanty homes and farms to the river project. They can’t afford to pay their eldest daughter’s school fees, so the teen is sent to work, ironically, on the “Farewell Tour” cruises, in which Westerners pay huge sums to sight-see before “the old” China and the new ghost towns disappear. Given an American nickname by her boss, “Cindy,” dreams of college while receiving an education of a decidedly different sort. She is contrasted by the slightly older, middle-class Jerry, a born hustler who seems as if he will flourish in his new environs. Meanwhile one distraught interviewee, a shopkeeper who is about to lose his business to the dam quips: “It’s hard to be a human being, but being a common person in China is too difficult.” Pictures say a thousand words, and the time-elapse sequence says it all. This film is beautifully heartbreaking.