Peter Jackson's next directing project has nothing to do with fantastical worlds: it's a World War One documentary, commissioned by the Imperial War Museum in London, set to coincide with the centennial of the war's end.
Never-before-seen, century-old footage has been mined, restored, and hand-colorised from the archives of the Museum and the BBC, and will be edited into a feature - in 2D and 3D - by Jackson himself. The film focuses on the experiences of the people involved in the five-year war, as opposed to the larger strategy and politics, working from hundreds of hours of interviews with veterans. Jackson says the project is "not the usual film you would expect on the First World War;" check out his thoughts on the project, as well as some restoration tests, in the video below.
Jackson has a long history of fascination with the First World War. New Zealand, of course, was heavily involved in the conflict, with one of its national holidays (ANZAC Day) originating as a memorial to the war. But Jackson also happens to be a signinficant collector of World War One memorabilia, ranging all the way up to vehicles and aircraft; his collection was utilised in a major exhibition at Te Papa, the country's national museum.
Somewhere, there also exists a 15-minute short film set during the conflict, Crossing The Line, that Jackson shot as a Red One camera test prior to making The Hobbit. The full film screened at the NAB convention in 2007, but as far as I can tell, the only footage that's emerged publicly is this 30-second extract:
My kingdom for that short.
The as-yet untitled documentary will premiere later this year, and copies will be given to every high school in the UK, in order to better educate young people about a world-changing event that for them is ancient history. As someone whose ancestors died in the war (including one incredible story wherein a Scotsman fell in love with a German woman pre-war and ended up fighting on the German side), I'm very excited to see what Jackson puts together.
Relevant trivia: the last time Jackson directed a "documentary" was the 1995 hoax film Forgotten Silver, for which he faked turn-of-the-century footage; now he's going in the other direction and restoring some. Quite a reversal.