New Titanic documentary, “The Six” tells the story of the ship’s Chinese survivors

Shanghai, April 21 2021: Amid the recent uptick in hate crimes against Asians in the western world, a new documentary has been released by James Cameron, the Oscar winning director of the smash-hit Titanic in 1997.

The film which is directed by Arthur Jones, aims to tell the story of some six Chinese men who survived the sinking of the most famous ship in the world. Called “The Six”, the documentary aims to shed light on a previously unknown chapter in the ship’s story. Having already earned glowing reviews in China, at one point trended on the country’s Twitter like platform Weibo after its release there on Friday.

Hoping to dispel some myths that have taken root over a century, director Arthur Jones hopes “The Six” will have the same impact overseas. The story will give life and voice to the faces of a small unknown band of Chinese men among the 700 survivors of the disaster. The project which has spanned over several years and multiple countries, started as a joke between the two friends, Cameron and Jones. According to Jones, he was initially skeptical about whether the world needed to see another Titanic story. The start of the epic research journey strengthened the concept however and when he talked about it to his Chinese friends, they were enthusiastic and that was when he decided it was worth doing.

The film sees the lead researcher Steven Schwankert, a Briton, pore over archives and track descendants across continents as they try to put together what happened to the six Chinese men out of the total eight who had been traveling in steerage and had managed to survive the wreck by staying afloat on life rafts. Eight Chinese men who were sailors but not working on the Titanic on that fateful voyage were potential Chinese immigrant workers headed to the New World in search of their own American Dream but the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 that prohibited the laborers from entering the US forever slammed the door on that prospect. The prejudice faced by the workers is a strong thread within the film.

The men who has arrived in New York with the other survivors were shipped back out of the country less than 24 hours later. The prejudice Asians faced back then can be paralleled with the anti Asian hate sentiment that is prevalent today particularly in the US. According to Schwankert, “People, whether it’s in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom or anywhere else didn’t suddenly develop these negative feelings in the last two or three months. These are deep-seated problems.”

The film also debunks the theory that the men disguised themselves as women to board the life boats or hid on the rafts to avoid detection.

James Cameron also allowed Jones to feature a scene from the original 1997 film which was not in the final cinema version, where there is an Asian man hanging onto a piece of wood clinging for dear life and perhaps becoming the last person to be saved.

When the team of researchers and the film crew tried to track down the descendants of the man in real life, it turned out they had no idea what their father had endured because he never spoke about it in later years. As Shwankert and his team delved further into what became of the six men, the project they were working on gained traction, drawing more people to come forward with information with new details coming to life even now.

Since the release of the documentary, Chinese viewers are happy that the true survival story of the men has now been told. “Above anything else, audiences here are saying thank you for filling in this little bit of unwritten history, or maybe badly written history,” Jones said.

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