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This is Film! #5: Restoration or Re-appropriation?

Under the overarching theme of recycling, re-using and remixing archival film fragments, the 6th edition of Eye’s annual public lecture series This is Film! Film Heritage in Practice will showcase a broad range of creatively reused archival footage, varying from the colorization of black-and-white WWI footage, to the use of archival content in compilation and documentary films, VR or VJ performances.

Each session will cover a different approach to the theme of ‘re-use’ and will feature an introduction by Giovanna Fossati (Chief Curator at Eye and Professor of Film Heritage at the University of Amsterdam), followed by a talk by or interview and Q&A with an international expert and a screening or performance. 

The lectures are in English and can be attended as a series or on a one-off basis.

Guests: Matthew Lee (Head of Film at Imperial War Museums) and David Walsh (Training and Outreach Coordinator for FIAF)

Screening: They Shall Not Grow Old (NZ/UK, 2018, Peter Jackson, DCP)

Film material from WWI in colour and 3D

The fifth session of This is Film! will feature a film that sparked heated discussions within the audiovisual archive community: ‘They Shall not Grow Old’ (2018) by Peter Jackson, best known for directing the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The film tells the story of what it was like to be a soldier during the First World War, using original footage from the Imperial War Museum's extensive archives, in combination with interviews conducted by IWM and the BBC. The film was co-commissioned by 14–18 NOW (a cultural programme to mark the centenary of WWI) and Imperial War Museums in association with the BBC. Jackson used several modern production techniques to manipulate the materials that were previously digitized and restored by Imperial War Museums, such as colorization, grain reduction, sharpening of the image, cropping the image, conforming the film to sound speed, and conversion to 3-D.


While the general public, and many film critics were wildly enthusiastic and praised the film for its “impressive technical achievement” and “walloping emotional impact”, archivists and film historians had their concerns about the fact that Jackson called his film a “restored documentary” while they felt that the kind of manipulation carried out in this project fall into the category of artistic re-appropriation rather than archival restoration.  

Eye has invited David Walsh (former Head of Digital Collections at Imperial War Museums) and Matthew Lee (Head of Film at the Imperial War Museums) to talk about their experience of working with director Peter Jackson on They Shall Not Grow Old (2018), addressing the genesis of the film, and its controversies. 



David Walsh is Training and Outreach Coordinator for FIAF and former Head of Digital Collection at Imperial War Museums (IWM) in London. He is an expert in the preservation of film and video. 


Matthew Lee is Head of Film at Imperial War Museums and has been a Film Curator for many years at IWM. He takes an interest in the question of fakery and reconstruction in non-fiction film.