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Peter Jackson Making Documentary on World War I

Picture will premiere at the London Film Festival, then play on the BBC

Peter Jackson is switching his attention from epic fantasy conflicts to a real-life Great War. “The Lord of the Rings” director is making a new feature documentary about World War I to mark the centennial of the war’s end, mining the archives of the BBC and London’s Imperial War Museum for material. The as-yet-unnamed project will have a U.K.-wide release as part of the BFI London Film Festival in the fall.

The historical footage, much of which will not have been seen before, has been restored and hand-colorized. Jackson said the film will bring to life the real stories of people who lived through the 1914-18 conflict, which was billed as the “war to end all wars.”

The 2D and 3D film is part of the official program of cultural events marking the centenary of the armistice, organized under the banner “14-18 NOW” and supported by British lottery funding, the Arts Council, and government’s department of culture.

Events specialist Trafalgar Releasing will coordinate a U.K.-wide release of Jackson’s film to coincide with the LFF premiere. The film is being produced by the director’s WingNut Films shingle. He unveiled the project at BAFTA in London on Monday at an event also attended by BBC Director General Tony Hall.

He said the Imperial War Museum approached him a couple of years ago to see what could be done with their archive footage and how it could be presented in a way not done before.

“We’re making a film [that is] not the usual film you would expect on the First World War. We’re making a film that shows this incredible footage in which the faces of the men just jump out at you,” Jackson said. “It’s the people that come to life in this film.”

The producers sifted through hundreds of hours of interviews with veterans in order to focus on the personal experiences of the people involved. “We have made a movie which shows the experience of what it was like to fight in this war, not strategy [or] battles,” said Jackson, who discusses the film in the video below.

A copy of the film will also be given to every secondary school in Britain, with a key aim of the project to help younger generations understand the events of a century ago. BBC content chief Charlotte Moore said it would “bring unheard voices from a hundred years ago to life for a whole new generation to experience.”

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