By Ariella Tai
Last week, both The Guardian and The New York Times reported on a statement released by the Chinese government, and approved by prime minister Wen Jiabao, that acknowledged “urgent problems” facing the Three Gorges Dam project.
Started in 1992, the construction of the world’s biggest hydropower plant has necessitated the relocation of 1.4 million citizens and the destruction of over 1,000 towns and villages. Victims of the massive flooding include the cites of 1,000 year old Fengjie and 1,700 year old Gong Tan, the last months of which are chronicled in the landmark documentaries Before the Flood and Before the Flood II, directed by Li Yifan and Yan Yu.
Filmed in cinema-verite style, these documentaries do the work of recording the breathtaking natural beauty of these historic cities that will soon be wiped away. The filmmakers also document the struggles of the town’s residents as they are forced out of the homes that they have built and held for generations and asked to relocate to smaller residences where they face the possibilities of unemployment and deeper poverty. These citizens stand against government bureaucrats to protest their mistreatment and organize as a community to protect their homes, livelihood and history.