Filmmakers hunt for China's Titanic survivors

By Zhang Rui
0 申博电子游戏Print E-mail China.org.cn, March 23, 2021
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A new documentary by British filmmaker Arthur Jones and set for Chinese release in April, reveals the untold story of six Chinese survivors on the doomed ocean liner Titanic, which sank more than a hundred years ago.

A Chinese poster for "The Six: The Untold Story of RMS Titanic's Chinese Passengers." [Image courtesy of Hero High-Quality Film]

"The Six: The Untold Story of RMS Titanic's Chinese Passengers" takes audiences on a journey to discover how six Chinese passengers survived after the huge ship they were on sank. Returning to a subject that he helped popularize among a new generation in 1997's blockbuster "Titanic," director James Cameron also joined this project as executive producer.

"Titanic, it is a Chinese story," Cameron said, wondering why the records of the Chinese passengers on the Titanic were overlooked, hidden, or excluded. This oversight prompted him to participate in the project.

The legendary director also revealed that the last person rescued from the Titanic was Chinese and that they were pulled from the ice-cold seawater, similar to how Rose DeWitt Bukater was saved in the final scene of "Titanic."

Ever since the sinking of the British passenger liner in 1912, experts have tried to uncover the truth and details behind the tragedy. At the time of its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City, the Titanic was the largest ship afloat but sank in the North Atlantic Ocean in the early morning hours of April 15, 1912, after colliding with an iceberg. There were an estimated 2,224 passengers and crew onboard the ship. More than 1,500 died following the collision.

Its survivors, along with the mystery that shrouded the disaster, became legends that countless books and movies have told over the decades. One of the most memorable recollections of the tragedy, "Titanic," became one of the highest-grossing films of all time.

However, of the over 700 survivors of the Titanic disaster, the six Chinese survivors never had a chance to share their experiences. "Those stories are very well documented for almost every single one of those survivors. But the Chinese are almost uniquely unknown," said Steven Schwankert, lead researcher and historian for "The Six." "They deserve to tell their story as much as any other survivors do. They were there. They lived it. They're out there. We've got to find them."

In order to trace the survivors' descendants, Jones and his team — consisting of dozens of researchers — traveled the world and visited 20 cities in the United States, Britain, Canada, and Cuba, eventually locating some of them.

A promotional image for "The Six: The Untold Story of RMS Titanic's Chinese Passengers." [Image courtesy of Hero High-Quality Film]

"How did they survive the accident at such a high rate and, afterward, why did they disappear from the history books so completely within 24 hours of arriving in the U.S.?" inquired director Arthur Jones, who has been living and working in China for over 20 years. "While most of the 700 or so survivors of the Titanic were celebrated in their home countries, and to this day are regularly covered in the press on Titanic anniversaries, the Chinese men on the Titanic were never interviewed, and never claimed by relatives, making their experience unique."

"The Six" is an extraordinary tale of survival as well as of how a few passengers were able to maintain dignity in the face of bigotry and anti-immigrant policies, making it one that still reverberates today. Following their rescue, the six were not met with compassion but with suspicion and slander. After less than 24 hours, they were expelled from the U.S., soon forgotten, and lost beneath the waves of time. It is because of these factors that the filmmakers also tried to shine a light on the dark legacy of punitive immigration policies, specifically the Chinese Exclusion Act of United States, and on the sacrifices often made by migrants in their search for a better life.

Work on "The Six: The Untold Story of RMS Titanic's Chinese Passengers" began as early as 2015 as the researchers slowly started to piece together the forgotten truth of one of the deadliest commercial peacetime maritime disasters in modern history. The film was initially scheduled for release in 2018 but later postponed to 2019 and then 2020 before being postponed again due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The film is now set for release in China on April 16, 2021.

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