The Six, a documentary that unravels the untold story of Titanic’s six Chinese survivors who lived through the shipwreck in 1912, is getting positive audience reviews in China following its premiere last Friday — one day after the 109th anniversary of the tragic sinking of the liner.
The 102-minute film uncovers a little-known part of the story of the huge maritime disaster by digging into the real lives of six Chinese men on board — Lee Bing, Fang Lang, Chang Chip, Ling Hee, Ah Lam and Chung Foo. The six were professional sailors onboard the Titanic, heading to New York to transfer to their next destination.
While other Titanic survivors were celebrated after being rescued, the six Chinese survivors were refused entry and forced to leave the country less than 24 hours upon their arrival at Ellis Island.
This was in line with the discriminatory Chinese Exclusion Act that remained in effect until 1943. Their story was later seemingly erased from history after they were sent to Cuba.
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the story is how Fang Lang, a 26-year-old Hong Konger who was found upon floating wreckage by a rescue boat, was actually the original inspiration for Jack and Rose’s famous scene in the Hollywood blockbuster.
The film not only provides folks in China with a chance to learn about the otherwise hidden story of Chinese passengers on board, but has also sparked conversations on the legacy of racism in the West and how that echoes with the surge of anti-Asian hate crimes in the current day.
By Monday afternoon, The Six had amassed a total of 2.27 million RMB (around 348,000 USD) at the box office. A modest performance compared to hit films such as Hi,Mom of course, but the general response from viewers has been positive, as netizens draw meaningful insights from the documentary.
At time of writing, the film has a score of 8.5 on China’s ratings forum, Douban, making it the highest-rated new release on the platform this past weekend.
Thank you China! The Six 六人 is the highest rated new release on Douban this weekend 🔥 pic.twitter.com/zlYYTuDbzm— The Six 六人 (@thesixfilm) April 17, 2021
Thank you China! The Six 六人 is the highest rated new release on Douban this weekend 🔥 pic.twitter.com/zlYYTuDbzm
— The Six 六人 (@thesixfilm) April 17, 2021
“Textbooks have only mentioned the contributions of Chinese laborers without talking about their whereabouts. The Titanic story was portrayed as a royal romance, but no one really knew about the racism behind it,” reads the top commenter in one related article published by Southern Weekly.
“It was such a tough experience for early overseas Chinese. Everyone has their own story,” comments another under a review by a popular film critic “毒sir” on Chinese messaging app WeChat.
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Some netizens have playe the narrative into the context of the current state of US-China relations: “There will be no real friendship between the US and China,” writes the most upvoted comment in a post related to the trending hashtag #Six Chinese survivors at the Titanic got expelled# on Chinese microblogging platform Weibo.
Executive-produced by Titanic director James Cameron, directed by British documentary filmmaker Arthur Jones and contributed to by a team of researchers, including lead historian Steven Schwankert, the documentary looks to give a rightful place to those whose names were erased.
The Six was released after six years of investigating archives, tracking down missing records, piecing together relevant facts and filming in over 20 cities across the world.
Cover image: The Six promotional poster
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