Distributor:  Global Environmental Justice
Length:  60 minutes
Date:  2008
Genre:  Expository
Language:  Mandarin / English subtitles
Color/BW:  Color


Curator imageJason A.Carbine, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Whittier College

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Before the Flood II

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Part II. Yan Yu follows up his first film with Before the Flood II, a profile of the residents of Gongtan, a 1700-year-old village soon to be demolished and flooded during the construction of Three Gorges dams and reservoir.

Before the Flood II

These films were selected by Jason A. Carbine, C. Milo Connick Chair of Religious Studies Associate Professor Department of Religious Studies, Whittier College.

Why I selected these films
I chose these films in part because they resonate with other documentaries in this collection --Waking the Green Tiger, Dams, Drugs and Democracy, and Yindabad -- that examine environmental, social, and political issues related to hydroelectric power development and management, worldwide.

I also selected the films because they are particularly useful for any kind of interdisciplinary courses in Asian Studies and in other fields that examine the moral economies of water and water management, as seen from a different local and global perspectives, including comparative social ethics. These films provide an intimate and intense exploration of the tensions, fears, anxieties, and conflicts that arise when people are displaced for development purposes.

Teacher's guide
Please see the combined guide for both films for maps and background information and suggested subjects, questions and activities.

Synopsis Part II
Yan Yu follows his groundbreaking documentary Before the Flood with this profile of the residents of Gongtan, a 1700-year-old village. Gongtan, an historic village located on a tributary of the Yangtze, is about to be flooded by a dam project, forcing its residents to relocate. National imperatives displace local lives as authorities make decisions with little regard for village life. Ran Qingsong, a barber, and Ran Si, a cell-phone proprietor, rally the residents of Gongtan to stand against their impending displacement. But the will of the townspeople to save their land and homes soon wavers in the face of external pressure and internal suspicion.

Environmental Justice Focus
This film documents interrelations between environmental engineering and bureaucratic mismanagement, dehumanization, and displacement. Mr. Haiyu Xiang, a hostel owner, symbolizes the plight of many, as he and others struggle against the forces of large-scale water and power management in China.

Download the teacher's guide for Before the Flood I and Before the Flood II(PDF)

Before the Flood Teacher Guide


Before The Flood II


Title: Before The Flood II


Title: We are concentrating on Gongtan Village on the Banks of the Wu River a tributary of the Yangtze River. We are looking at at some mist shrouded mountains. Title: January 2007 Slow pan to river and village


Inside a house three men sit. One looks very ill, sleeping: Former boat puller Ran Qucai


Narrow streets, people are waking up, smoking, Ran is now awake


Photos and newspaper clippings on the wall


a child take a dipper and has drink of water. Outside people complain about how the goverment does not care about ordinary people.


They have bitter word for the gov. Say they all signed written protests and it made no difference.


We the invalid man sitting up and listening to all this. Two women in a narrow alley.


A large boat on fast moving river from POV of the village


Village square. Title:  Gongton Demo and Relocation Committee. Villagers stand, sit, wait, smoke.


A man at the mic tells them to come closer but the villagers start to leave and shout “go away”


The square is empty now.  He tells them to stay and talk. He starts the meeting by reading from a paper.


Chairman Ha takes the mic and address the onlookers. The crowd is not listening they talk amongst themselves.


He says the committee will take general questions now. As he talks some villager set up a banner


More with the banner. We see a small storefront. Title: Qingsong’s Barbershop. Ran talks to someone about the relocation houses and their price.


A man walks between narrow streets announcing a meeting.


We are at the meeting. Men stand in  large groups. Women discuss faxing something to Chongqing


Lights come on, everyone gather round some stairs. There are a few hundred people


They talk about money they have gathered. Ran Qingsong talks to crowd. They need more money for their representatives in Beijing


Some of those that went to Beijing will talk. They begin to explain step by step who the approached in Beijing.


At the State Council they said they filled out a form and then told council that they, the villagers would not relocate until everything was arranged better. They want to make a DVD of the village.


Daytime, Villagers mill around. A women climbs on a big back-hoe. They put banners on the heavy machinery.


A cell phone shop owner Ran SI films it all on a tiny camera. Everyone shouts directions. Ran Qingsong starts narrating to the camera the issue. 


Close: He talks to the crowd. Tries to inspire them to stick together. They play the whole thing back on TV right there.


Ran reads out of the State Councils book. Claims the government is breaking its own regulations.


Says some houses that are legal, are now deemed illegal. They need a lit of issues resolved before the agree to move.


Says if the come with bulldozer they will resist. we see a large boat being towed up stream


Many men in orange hard hats are in the town. The villagers berate them


things are getting tense on the streets between hard hats and villagers


Ran Qingsong talks the relocation issue while giving a man a hair cut


Talks about how hard it is for ordinary people to get access to higher levels of government. The hair cut is done


Another man sits in the chair.  The man who just had a hair cut talks about the need to follow the law. He has faith in the system


Ran Q. talks about the the issue with another costumer


One man is getting heated and tells Ran what to say the Relocation committee. Ran respond more calmly


In the shop they talk, plan, recount stories of being treated unfairly


They talk about the reality of getting arrested


There are police sitting in a car outside Ran Si’s mobile phone repair shop. He talks on the phone while doing business. A customer haggles with him


Police are parked outside Ran Q’s shop. People gather outside the barber shop


To many people in the house. Ran SI tells them to come outside. Some come out.


The crowd grows more loud and angry at the police. They squabble and Ran Q talks about his limited role in all this.


Thing are getting even more heated and people make loud demands and statements.


The two Ran’s talk about setting up the next meeting. Discuss problems communicating between them.


They decide the meeting will be at 7:00 at the field. At the Barber shop, it is said that Ran SI has taken a job with the government.


They discuss how they might be better off with a leaderless movement.


While he shaves an older man, Ran Q. talks about how he did not want to become a leader.


Narrow streets / Ran Q. sits in the invalids room and nods off. A few men talk the relocation issue,


They talk about how important it is not to sell each other out. They worry about getting arrested


Someone says that Ran SI did not take gov. money or contracts. That it was a rumour started by his aunt.


They talk about mobilizing 50 families to make a difference. Some says they are taking things to far.


Long shot of village and river at night / The old man the former boat puller Ran Qucai has died. A woman wails.


People are gathered around the bed where he lies. the women wails. Dozens of people are lined up outside the house. A noisy funeral procession through narrow streets.


They struggle up a very steep hill. They reach the gravesite. Long shot of misty mountains


Candles and incense at or near the water


Men carry a wardrobe on their backs and up stairs. People are moving their possessions out


A man carries a fridge on his back and puts it in a truck. the truck moves off on a road 


Ran Q. is asked about how much money they raised and whether they made a difference. He says he is about to sign. There is nothing else to do.


Ran is very disappointed in the people of Old Town. The men are bitter and swear a lot.


Loaded trucks drive off, the village is quite. Title May 2007,  there is rubble on the ground now everywhere.


Women gather plants that they want to take.


We move up stairs to a rubble strewn area, turn and look back over the river and the mess.


We continue moving among the broken content and garbage. There is a dog


The dog sniffs at piece of concert for a long time. We follow the dog through the ruins of the town. END

"Yan Yu's long-term commitment to the subject matter (he has spent the last six years working on these films) shines through in this latest effort to chronicle the human cost of a project that has forced 1.4 million people to relocate."—Ling Woo Liu, Time Magazine


Hong Kong International Film Festival

Yunnan Multi Culture Visual Festival

International Documentary Festival Amsterdam


Main credits

Yan, Yu (film director)
Yan, Yu (cinematographer)

Other credits

Cinematographer, Yan Yu; editing, Yi Pinyu.

Distributor credits

Li Yi-fan and Yan Yu

Li Yi-fan and Yan Yu

Directors: Li Yi-fan, Yan Yu
Editors: Yu Yan
Cinematography: Yu Yan

Docuseek2 subjects

Environmental Justice
Women's Studies
Asian Studies
Anthropology and Archaeology
Rivers and Lakes
Government Policy
Communication and Media Studies
Citizenship, Social Movements and Activism
Human Rights
Global / International Studies
Film and Video Studies
East Asia

Distributor subjects

Asian Studies
Environmental Geography
Human Rights
Visual Anthropology


"Before the Flood"; "Yan Mo"; China; Three Gorges Dam; Fengjie; YAN Yu; LI Yifan; hydropower; hydroelectricity; "Before the Flood II"; Gongtan; Icarus Films; dGenerate Films; Yangtze River; oustees; displaced populations; "Before the Flood II "; Global Environmental Justice; women; gender; activism;

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