I want to bring to your attention a little-known, upcoming documentary that has been getting massively-wild praise for a while. It's called They Shall Not Grow Old, and is directed by Peter Jackson, he of the Lord of the Rings movies. Apparently, it started as a small project, intended for a very to be released for television, I believe, as a way to honor the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. Jackson got access to rare material in the archives of the BBC and the Imperial War Museum -- but it turns out that he did such an amazing job that the studio, Warner Bros., is putting the film in limited theatrical release, not just for the audience but in hopes of getting an Oscar nomination.
By all accounts, he and his team did technological wizardry. Using the latest techniques they brilliantly restored the footage (in fact, they restored 100 hours of material from the Imperial War Museum and donated it back to them for free), and colorized the material and added a voice track -- with the assistance of lip readers for what the soldiers are saying -- that seems to have given it all it remarkable freshness. Though colorizing old black-and-white material remains controversial to this day (though somewhat more accepted now), every article I've read on this particular film has said it's shown the benefits of colorizing when done impeccably right, under the right conditions. And he added 3-D, as well.
Here's a passage from a glowing article on the documentary from The Guardian in London, which overlaps with many articles I've read on the film --
"The effect is electrifying. The soldiers are returned to an eerie, hyperreal kind of life in front of our eyes, like ghosts or figures summoned up in a seance. The faces are unforgettable.
"Watching this, I understood how the world wars of the 20th century are said to have inspired surrealism. Thirty or so years ago, there was a debate in film circles about the sacrilege of colourising classic black-and-white movies. This is different. The colourisation effect is artificial, as is 3D (as is monochrome, too, of course), and the painterly approximation of reality presents a challenge to what you consider “real” on film. After a few minutes, I realised that force of cultural habit was causing me to doubt what I was seeing, because colour means modern. The colourisation, and everything else, is a kind of alienation shock tactic as well as a means of enfolding you in the experience. It is an indirect way of reminding you that this really did happen to people like you and me."
The film played in theaters across England last October for one night only. I mention this because there is now an official date for it to play in the United States -- two days actually: December 17 and 27.
This is the Fathom Events website that lets you put in your zip code and find out what theaters (if any) will be playing it your area, and book tickets. Just click here.
This is short trailer -- and if you aren't awestruck in just these 40 seconds, you aren't trying.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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