Sir Peter Jackson’s new documentary/movie about World War One came out earlier this month. It’s phenomenal. The scenes range from the funny to the heart-warming to the poignant. Particularly moving are the clips that show walking wounded British soldiers who have been blinded by German poison gas, or the efforts of medics to evacuate their wounded comrades from the no-mans-land and then trenches. Jackson has even included moments when soldiers charge from their trenches toward the enemy, and death.

“I gave every part of my youth to do a job,” you can hear one British soldier saying, “but there was a job to be done. And you just got on and did it.”

Jackson didn’t cast any actors nor explore any countries for filming spots. Rather, he used original photo and movie footage from WWI. The Imperial War Museum gave him permission to scavenge through its film archives (more than 100 hours of film) for relevant footage.

“Their brief to me was really I could do anything I wanted,” said the famous director. “So long I used their footage in a — you know — some sort of a fresh way. That was their only brief. And I didn’t happen to have a clue. I said, ‘what the hell am I to do?’”

The BBC, moreover, allowed Jackson to utilise its gargantuan records of archival interviews (more than 600 hours) to give the movie an authentic sound and feel, aside from the pictures.

Some of the clips will dispel longstanding myths about the war. The majority of British and German soldiers didn’t hate one another, as it’s commonly believed. They were just ordinary fellows who served their countries. More often than not, they shared similar upbringings and professions.

At that point in history, Great Britain and Germany wouldn’t be considered traditional enemies. Throughout the centuries before 1914, France had been the enemy for both countries. Whether it was the Hundred Years War fought between the knights of England and France or the Napoleonic Wars, in which English and German — Germany wasn’t unified at that point — soldiers fought together against Napoleon’s unstoppable forces, France had been the traditional enemy of both nations.

“This documentary is simply special on every level — it is an arresting and gripping way to humanize and honor those who served so bravely during WWI by using actual footage shot at the time and narrated with the voices of the soldiers who experienced it. Leave it to Peter to come up with a groundbreaking way to reflect back on a period in history that deserves another look,” said Carolyn Blackwood, New Line Cinema president and chief content officer.

The movie will be screened in select U.S. theatres on December 17 and 27. Jackson’s masterpiece has already been screened in the U.K. to coincide with the commemoration services that marked the centenary of the end of the First World War.

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