A new documentary telling the little-known story of six Chinese survivors who miraculously escaped the Titanic is set for theatrical release next month.
"The Six" is a 97-minute feature documentary that will debut in Chinese theaters on April 16 - almost exactly 109 years after the sinking of the Titanic on April 15, 1912.
Hollywood director James Cameron, who famously directed the 1997 smash hit "Titanic", is on board as executive producer and contributor.
A 60-minute version of the documentary has also been prepared for TV with the potential for international distribution.
The documentary tells the story of six Chinese people who miraculously survived the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, only to be shunned and vilified when they arrived in the United States.
Filmmakers Arthur Jones and Steven Schwankert said that they did not set out to make a political film but said that they soon "discovered extraordinary parallels with today".
"These people turned out to be the perfect model for the illegal immigrant stereotype," Jones told Variety.
The two filmmakers tracked down descendants of the six survivors to tell the story of how the survivors were falsely accused of being stowaways on the Titanic or of cheating their way onto lifeboats by dressing in women's clothing. They also faced accusations of hiding on the ship's lifeboats to ensure a safe rescue.
"Once we started finding descendants, I realized that the story expanded way beyond Titanic. What happened to the Chinese survivors reshaped their lives in a way that, a century later, still affects their families and communities," Jones said.
"The more we dug into that very human experience, the more we saw that Titanic was part of a much bigger story about race and immigration and simple human decency that is still playing out today."
Jones and Schwankert were prepared to tell the truth if the Chinese survivors had done something dishonorable to ensure their survival but found no evidence of foul play.
"As documentarians, we had to be prepared to tell the story if these people had in fact done something bad. But what emerged instead was a picture of confusion, panic, and human error.
"We even built a replica of a lifeboat with collapsible sides to see if it was possible to hide unseen."
The filmmakers were able to secure archival footage from Fox after Hollywood director James Cameron came on board.
Schwankert reached out to Cameron because he knew that there was a deleted scene in the 1997 "Titanic" movie that showed a Chinese man floating on a door in the ocean and Cameron offered to join the documentary as executive producer.
"He offered to be EP and was very helpful with getting footage from Fox, helping to get image permissions from Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. He was a real part of our film."
Meanwhile, Cameron said that the rescue of Chinese passenger Fang Lang from the water served as inspiration for the iconic scene between Jack (DiCaprio) and Rose (Winslet) in the 1997 movie.
"‘The Six’ were the least known passengers until now and Titanic’s last, great untold story," Cameron said in a statement.