Peter Jackson's They Shall Not Grow Old is a stunning act of remembrance
Everyone raised in my hometown learned to recite In Flanders Fields in school. Every year, as November 11th, Remembrance Day, drew near, we were taught about the First World War. We made poppies. We prepared for a concert to honor our veterans. Elderly men with often vacant, watery eyes would visit our classrooms and talk to us about their time overseas. Sometimes they cried. Other times, they laughed as they talked about long absent friends and their lost youth. As I grew older, I marched in my town's annual Remembrance Day parade: first as an cadet and later in a different uniform. Each year as we gathered at the armory after the parade had ended, there were fewer survivors of the First and Second World War there to greet us. Decades have passed since those days. The men and women who served their fellows and the future generations that would become of them have largely passed on.
No matter where I am in the world, I take pause on November 11th, as many others do, to remember those that gave up their lives in the name of democracy and decency. I try to hold the millions that died from hate, xenophobia and greed. I give thanks that I am now too old and too broken to fight. I fear for those in uniform today that will see things that will never leave them and for those who deployed who will never come home.Amidst these meditations, I wonder over who will carry the torch of remembrance of wars and atrocities past, once those who survived them are no more.
I did not expect that one of the answers to this question would be Peter Jackson.
Through the restoration, colorization, voice acting and audio effects, Jackson and his team have breathed new life into 100 year old footage for their documentary on the First World War, They Shall Not Grow Old. Through the use first hand accounts and archival information, the documentary will serve as a warning to future generations of the horrors of war.
If Jackson does nothing else in his career as a filmmaker, I hope that he's remembered for what he has attempted here.