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This Is Film 2021 4 Restoration or Re Appropriation

#4: Restoration or Re-appropriation?

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This is Film! Heritage in Practice

The fourth session of This is Film! Film Heritage in Practice addresses 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.  

poster This is Film! Film Heritage in Practice 2021

This session of This is Film! addresses productions that are challenging the limits of film restoration ethics, zooming in on They Shall Not Grow Old (2018). In this film, 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.


In this lecture, guests David Walsh (former Head of Digital Collections at Imperial War Museums) and Matthew Lee (Head of Film at the Imperial War Museums) 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.

Introduction by Giovanna Fossati (Chief Curator at Eye and Professor of Film Heritage at the University of Amsterdam). Q&A in collaboration with the Master students of the This is Film! class at the University of Amsterdam.

They Shall Not Grow Old (2018)

The film They Shall Not Grow Old (2018) by Peter Jackson 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.

While the general public and many film critics were wildly enthusiastic and praised They Shall Not Grow Old (2018) 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.

Seamen's wives (1930)

As part of this lecture, Eye presents Seamen's wives (1930) on the Eye Film Player, an Eye restoration that sparked discussions in a similar way. Originally meant to be the first Dutch sound film, it became one of the last Dutch silent films. Seamen's wives was restored as a silent film by the Netherlands Filmmuseum in 1984 based on the only surviving 35mm print. In 2002, Eye Filmmuseum produced and released a new version with a completely new soundtrack by Dutch composer Henny Vrienten, including a music score, sound effects, dialogues based on the homonymous theatrical play by Herman Bouber and, on the deciphering by a professional lip-reader of what the actors were actually saying in the silent film. The sound version of Seamen's wives is a film that never existed before, other than, maybe, in the director’s mind.


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.

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Persons under 16 years must be accompanied by an adult


159 min.

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Original title

#4: Restoration or Re-appropriation?

Part of

This is Film! 2021

This is Film! Film Heritage in Practice is a public lecture series devoted to notable projects in the fields of film restoration and film heritage. Under the overarching theme of recycling, re-using and remixing archival film(fragments), the series will showcase a broad range of creatively reused archival footage in different settings, addressing its relevance for audiences today.

The video recordings of the lectures can be found at the bottom of this page.

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