Peter Jackson’s (The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring) World War I documentary, “They Shall Not Grow Old” premiered at the London Film Festival on October 16. Set for a U.K. television release on November 11, Jackson’s agent showed the film to Hollywood distributors in hopes of bringing it to the big screen. Moved by the production, Warner Bros. Pictures acquired the global distribution rights to the documentary and will likely push for a theater release by year’s end.
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Jackson’s documentary brings viewers back to the turn of the 20th century with restored and colorized historical footage and features audio recordings of veterans describing their experiences. Jackson even created a 3D version of the film, bringing audiences to the front line alongside the soldiers. Despite it being his first documentary, the film is being praised as a “technical dazzler with a surprisingly humane streak,” by Variety.
Commissioned by 14-18 NOW, a U.K. arts program, the Imperial War Museum and the BBC, “They Shall Not Grow Old” held a special appeal for Jackson, whose grandfather fought for Britain during WWI. When Jackson agreed to the project years ago, he planned to create a half hour program, but the project grew quickly since Jackson had access to 100 hours of video and 600 hours of audio recordings from British soldiers. It soon became a full length feature film and Jackson’s manager showed it to distributors in Hollywood, hoping the film may have life beyond academics. Toby Emmerich, chairman at Warner Bros Pictures Group, fell for the film and bought the distribution rights.
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“Peter and I share a passion for WWI history,” Emmerich said. “Watching this documentary was a moving, emotional experience and will remind viewers of the bravery and sacrifice of these soldiers and their contributions to freedom. Peter has created a powerful, immersive film that will touch people and we’re proud to partner with him to bring this film to audiences around the world.”
The film will air on BBC in the U.K. on November 11, Armistice Day. This year’s Armistice Day marks 100 years since guns were silenced, ending the first World War.