When South Africa Banned Pink Floyd’s The Wall After Students Chanted “We Don’t Need No Education” to Protest the Apartheid School System (1980)

When Apartheid states get the bless­ing of pow­er­ful nations, lob­bies, and cor­po­ra­tions, they seem to feel empow­ered to do what­ev­er they want. Such was the case, for a time, in South Africa, the coun­try that coined the term when it put its ver­sion of racial seg­re­ga­tion in place in 1948. The Apartheid sys­tem final­ly col­lapsed in 1991, decades after its coun­ter­part in the U.S.—its undo­ing the accu­mu­lat­ed weight of glob­al con­dem­na­tion, UN sanc­tion, boy­cotts, and grow­ing pres­sure from cit­i­zens in wealthy coun­tries.

Of course, cen­tral to Apartheid’s demise were the out­cries and actions of celebri­ty musi­cians. One such celebri­ty, Roger Waters, hasn’t stopped using his fame to lob­by for change, a char­ac­ter­is­tic that can some­times make him seem sanc­ti­mo­nious, but which also gave his most com­pelling Pink Floyd songs an urgency and bite that holds many decades lat­er, even though the cir­cum­stances are much changed (or not). Lines like “we don’t need no thought con­trol” have as much cur­ren­cy now as they did forty years ago.

No doubt, some of the most stri­dent, per­son­al, and pow­er­ful music Waters wrote for the band comes from The Wall. The rock opera to beat all rock operas, it turned out, pro­vid­ed a ral­ly­ing cry for South African stu­dents, who chant­ed the noto­ri­ous lyrics sung by a chil­dren’s cho­rus in “Anoth­er Brick in the Wall (Part II)” to protest racial inequal­i­ties in the school sys­tem. “We don’t need no edu­ca­tion,” they sang in uni­son, and the song “held the top spot on the local charts for almost three months,” writes Nick Deriso at Ulti­mate Clas­sic Rock, “a total of sev­en weeks longer than it did in Amer­i­ca.”

Threat­ened by the phe­nom­e­non, the South African gov­ern­ment banned the song, then the whole album, in 1980, impos­ing what Waters called “a cul­tur­al block­ade… on cer­tain songs.” Deriso explains that “South Africa’s Direc­torate of Pub­li­ca­tions held sweep­ing pow­er in that era to ban books, movies, plays, posters, arti­cles of cloth­ing and, yes, music that it deemed ‘polit­i­cal or moral­ly unde­sir­able.’” The cen­sors were not the only peo­ple to inter­pret the song as a threat. “Peo­ple were real­ly dri­ven to fren­zies of rage by it,” Waters remem­bers.

He has since played the song all over the world, includ­ing Berlin in 1990, and he spray paint­ed its lyrics on the wall in the West Bank in 2006. “Twen­ty-five years lat­er,” he writes at The GuardianThe Wall still res­onat­ed, this time with Pales­tin­ian chil­dren, who “used the song to protest Israel’s wall around the West Bank. They sang: ‘We don’t need no occu­pa­tion! We don’t need no racist wall!” Waters com­pares the cur­rent boy­cott cam­paign to the refusal of major stars in the 80s to play South Africa’s Sun City resort “until apartheid fell and white peo­ple and black peo­ple enjoyed equal rights.”

As for the dura­bil­i­ty of “Anoth­er Brick in the Wall (Part II)” as a ral­ly­ing cry for young activists, the best com­ment may come from an unlike­ly source—the Arch­bish­op of Can­ter­bury, who “went on record,” Waters writes, “say­ing that if it’s very pop­u­lar with school kids, then it must in some way be express­ing some feel­ings that they have them­selves. If one doesn’t like it, or how­ev­er one feels about it, one should take the oppor­tu­ni­ty of using it as a start­ing point for discussion—which was exact­ly how I felt about it.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How Pink Floyd’s “Com­fort­ably Numb” Was Born From an Argu­ment Between Roger Waters & David Gilmour

Under­stand­ing Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, Their Trib­ute to Depart­ed Band­mate Syd Bar­rett

Hear a 4 Hour Playlist of Great Protest Songs: Bob Dylan, Nina Simone, Bob Mar­ley, Pub­lic Ene­my, Bil­ly Bragg & More

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

Mira Nair, Director of Monsoon Wedding and The Namesake, Teaches an Online Course on Indie Filmmaking

FYI: Mira Nair, the direc­tor of Mon­soon Wed­ding and The Name­sakehas just released an online mas­ter­class on inde­pen­dent film­mak­ing. In 17 video lessons, the Oscar-nom­i­nat­ed direc­tor teach­es stu­dents how to “make a big impact on a small bud­get, evoke the best from actors and non-actors, and pro­tect your cre­ative vision so you tell the sto­ry that can only come from you.” Nair’s course runs $90. But for $180, you can get an All-Access Pass to Mas­ter­class’ cat­a­logue of 45 cours­es, which includes cours­es by a num­ber of oth­er promi­nent filmmakers–Martin Scors­ese, Spike Lee, Ken Burns, Ron Howard, Wern­er Her­zog and more. Not to men­tion actors and actress­es like Samuel L. Jack­son and Helen Mir­ren.

FYI: If you sign up for a Mas­ter­Class course by click­ing on the affil­i­ate links in this post, Open Cul­ture will receive a small fee that helps sup­port our oper­a­tion.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Wern­er Her­zog Offers 24 Pieces of Film­mak­ing & Life Advice

Direc­tor Robert Rodriguez Teach­es The Basics of Film­mak­ing in Under 10 Min­utes

The Stu­dent of Prague: The Very First Inde­pen­dent Film (1913)

Blade Runner Getting Adapted into a New Anime Series, Produced by Cowboy Bebop Animator Shinichiro Watanabe

You may remem­ber, in the run-up to the the­atri­cal release of Blade Run­ner 2049 last Octo­ber, that three short pre­quels appeared on the inter­net. Black Out 2022 (above), the most dis­cussed install­ment of that minia­ture tril­o­gy, stood out both aes­thet­i­cal­ly and cul­tur­al­ly: direct­ed by famed Japan­ese ani­ma­tor Shinichi­ro Watan­abe, it expand­ed the real­i­ty of Blade Run­ner through a form that has drawn so much from that uni­verse over the pre­vi­ous 35 years. “I just want an ani­mat­ed bladerun­ner series now,” says the cur­rent top-rat­ed com­ment below that video, “this was mag­i­cal.” And so, a year lat­er, the answer to the prayer of that com­menter (and clear­ly many oth­er view­ers besides) has appeared on the hori­zon: a Japan­ese ani­mat­ed series called Blade Run­ner — Black Lotus.

Over­seen by Watan­abe in the pro­duc­er role and direct­ed by Ken­ji Kamiya­ma and Shin­ji Ara­ma­ki, the lat­ter of whom worked in the art depart­ment on Black Out 2022, the new series will take place in 2032, between the events of the short and those of Blade Run­ner 2049.

“It will also include some ‘estab­lished char­ac­ters’ from the Blade Run­ner uni­verse, but that could mean all sorts of things,” writes The A.V. Club’s Sam Barsan­ti. “Har­ri­son Ford’s Rick Deckard would already be in hid­ing at that point after father­ing the mir­a­cle repli­cant baby, so it could be about him going off on some cool guy adven­tures, but Deckard doesn’t exact­ly seem like a guy who goes on cool guy adven­tures. Ryan Gosling’s K prob­a­bly wasn’t ‘born’ yet, since he’s a Nexus‑9 repli­cant and those weren’t cre­at­ed until lat­er in the 2030s, but we don’t know for sure.”

Per­haps sup­port­ing char­ac­ters from both movies, “like Edward James Olmos’ Gaff (he might still be an LAPD cop) or Jared Leto’s Nian­der Wal­lace (he’s def­i­nite­ly hang­ing around, being an evil rich guy),” will show up. What­ev­er hap­pens, the thir­teen episodes of Blade Run­ner — Black Lotus will cer­tain­ly have no small amount of both famil­iar­i­ty and sur­prise in store for fans of Blade Run­ner, as well as those of Watan­abe’s oth­er work. That goes espe­cial­ly for his philo­soph­i­cal space boun­ty-hunter series Cow­boy Bebop, itself the source mate­r­i­al for a new live-action tele­vi­sion series on Adult Swim, who will air Blade Run­ner — Black Lotus at the same time as it’s streamed on ani­me site Crunchyroll.com. No release date has thus far been announced, but odds are the show’s debut will hap­pen some time in 2019 — the per­fect year for it, as every­one thrilling to the prospect of more Blade Run­ner already knows.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Three New Pre­quels Get You Ready to Watch Blade Run­ner 2049

Watch the New Ani­me Pre­quel to Blade Run­ner 2049, by Famed Japan­ese Ani­ma­tor Shinichi­ro Watan­abe

How Rid­ley Scott’s Blade Run­ner Illu­mi­nates the Cen­tral Prob­lem of Moder­ni­ty

The Exis­ten­tial Phi­los­o­phy of Cow­boy Bebop, the Cult Japan­ese Ani­me Series, Explored in a Thought­ful Video Essay

“The Long Tomor­row”: Dis­cov­er Mœbius’ Hard-Boiled Detec­tive Com­ic That Inspired Blade Run­ner (1975)

When Japan’s Top Ani­ma­tors Made a Thrilling Cyber­punk Com­mer­cial for Irish Beer: Watch Last Orders (1997)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Andy Kaufman Creates Mayhem on Late Night TV: When Comedy Becomes Performance Art (1981)

While there are many styles of com­e­dy, the con­tract between come­di­an and audi­ence is a fair­ly stan­dard one. The come­di­an endeav­ors to get laughs. The audi­ence under­stands that sort of cur­ren­cy, and is eager to lav­ish it on deserv­ing can­di­dates.

The late Andy Kauf­man wasn’t much inter­est­ed in that sort of exchange.

His com­e­dy was exper­i­men­tal to the point of per­for­mance art, and often felt exper­i­men­tal in a sci­en­tif­ic sense as well. When he read long pas­sages from The Great Gats­by to com­e­dy club audi­ences, went after pro­fes­sion­al wrestlers twice his size, or insist­ed he’d found Jesus and got­ten engaged to a Lawrence Welk Show singer, it was as if he was con­duct­ing a stress test. How much dis­ori­en­ta­tion would an audi­ence put up with?

He was a gen­uine weirdo. The genius kid who seems hell­bent on win­ning the ani­mos­i­ty of his class­mates with his cryp­tic remarks and odd behav­ior.

Know­ing young com­e­dy fans who idol­ize prankster Sacha Baron Cohen’s shapeshift­ing stunts may find it hard to appre­ci­ate just how unset­tling the off-kil­ter Kauf­man could be.

Wit­ness his 1981 guest spot on Fri­days, a rival network’s short-lived attempt to dupli­cate Sat­ur­day Night Live’s suc­cess.

In the sketch above, Kauf­man wan­ders pret­ty egre­gious­ly afield of expect­ed con­duct. In an era where guest stars appeared not infre­quent­ly bombed out of their gourds, it wasn’t entire­ly sur­pris­ing that one might appear con­fused, or have trou­ble read­ing cue cards. But Kauf­man seemed to be mak­ing a delib­er­ate choice to scup­per his career, or at the very least, the good­will of Fri­days’ cast and crew, by refus­ing to play along in a sketch about restau­rant patrons sneak­ing off to the bath­room to get high.

“I can’t play stoned,” he breaks char­ac­ter to announce, mid-scene. Hmm. Seems like the kind of thing one might bring up dur­ing the table read. An a‑hole would wait till dress rehearsal, when such a move would for sure inspire the enmi­ty of cast and crew. Kauf­man wait­ed till the sketch was being taped in front of a live stu­dio audi­ence.

But then, Kaufman’s exper­i­ments need­ed an audi­ence to suc­ceed.

As with Sacha Baron Cohen’s elab­o­rate rus­es, it helped to lim­it the num­ber of peo­ple who were in on the joke.

Actor Melanie Chartoff recalled how she and Kaufman’s oth­er two scene part­ners, Mary Edith Bur­rell and Seinfeld’s Michael Richards, were tipped off fair­ly late in the process by producer/announcer Jack Burns, who was thrilled to snap up the live wire whose antics had per­ma­nent­ly burned his bridges with Sat­ur­day Night Live:

Andy’s gonna bust out of the show tonight,” he gleamed. “He’s gonna mess up and break the fourth wall from the top of the mono­logue. It’s gonna be great. It’s gonna kick our rat­ings through the ROOF!

And so it did, abet­ted by benight­ed crew mem­bers who sprang to pro­vide back up, when a furi­ous-seem­ing Burns stormed the set as if to kick the ornery guest star’s ass.

But the piece de resis­tance came the fol­low­ing week, when pro­duc­er John Mof­fitt went on air to sat­is­fy the public’s need to know, con­fess­ing that the stunt was indeed a fake and pious­ly sug­gest­ing they should take it as a reminder of the “spon­tane­ity of live tele­vi­sion, some­thing that rarely hap­pens in this basi­cal­ly pas­sive medi­um today.”

Then Kaufman—who gen­uine­ly hat­ed that his sleight of hand had been revealed—turned on Mof­fitt for the halt­ing, mis­er­able, and seem­ing­ly forced 4 minute apol­o­gy below.

When the live audi­ence laughed delight­ed­ly, he lashed out, insist­ing that his pre­vi­ous week’s actions were about to cost him his gig on the hit sit­com Taxi, all future roles, a num­ber of friend­ships, and his mar­riage.

Nev­er mind that he was unmar­ried.

This come­di­an played a long game, and easy laughs were nev­er the goal.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A Look Back at Andy Kauf­man: Absurd Com­ic Per­for­mance Artist and Endear­ing Weirdo

The Improb­a­ble Time When Orson Welles Inter­viewed Andy Kauf­man (1982)

The Night John Belushi Booked the Punk Band Fear on Sat­ur­day Night Live, And They Got Banned from the Show

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Join her in NYC this Decem­ber for the 10th anniver­sary pro­duc­tion of Greg Kotis’ apoc­a­lyp­tic hol­i­day tale, The Truth About San­ta, and the next month­ly install­ment of her book-based vari­ety show, Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domain. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

Watch Queen’s Dragtastic “I Want to Break Free” Video: It Was More Than America & MTV Could Handle (1984)

I remem­ber the ear­ly part of 1984 when Queen’s “Radio Gaga,” their sin­gle from The Works album with a video that mixed in clips from Fritz Lang’s Metrop­o­lis, was played near­ly every hour on MTV. Or it least it seemed that way. And then in April, the band released their fol­low-up sin­gle, “I Want to Break Free,” seen above. This is when things got weird for Queen state­side and where truth starts to split from rumor.

In the fine tra­di­tion of British pan­tomime and Mon­ty Python, the band appear in drag, with Mer­cury in a black leather skirt vac­u­um­ing the floor of a typ­i­cal Eng­lish liv­ing room, Bri­an May in curlers and night­dress; John Dea­con as a more con­ser­v­a­tive grand­moth­er; and Roger Tay­lor as a school­girl. British view­ers would have got the joke–the style and dress and set­ting was a direct par­o­dy of pop­u­lar work­ing class soap opera Coro­na­tion Street, and its first shot of chim­neys and row hous­es was a fur­ther give­away.

“We had done some real­ly seri­ous, epic videos in the past, and we just thought we’d have some fun,” said Roger Tay­lor. “We want­ed peo­ple to know that we did­n’t take our­selves too seri­ous­ly, that we could still laugh at our­selves. I think we proved that.”

But some Amer­i­cans appar­ent­ly did take it seri­ous­ly and believed the video to be pro­mot­ing cross-dress­ing. (There’s no men­tion whether they thought the mid­dle sec­tion, fea­tur­ing mem­bers of the Roy­al Bal­let and a par­o­dy of Nijinsky’s After­noon of a Faun, pro­mot­ed bal­let, leo­tards, or Claude Debussy).

Now most accounts from here on out say that MTV banned the video, despite the song being in the charts for eight weeks. It failed to be the block­buster hit like “Radio Gaga,” for sure, and Queen nev­er again real­ly had a foothold on Amer­i­can pop cul­ture until Live Aid, and even then their appear­ance meant more to the Brits than the Yanks. Queen went from a clas­sic rock act to some­thing the British got and the Amer­i­cans didn’t.

Bri­an May agreed that the video was a turn­ing point when he sat for a Ter­ry Gross inter­view in 2010:

I remem­ber doing a pro­mo tour for this song that we did, which was called “I Want to Break Free.” Now we made a video for that, which was a pas­tiche of an Eng­lish soap called “Coro­na­tion Street,” and we dressed up as the char­ac­ters in that soap, and they were female char­ac­ters. So we’re dress­ing up as girls — as women and we had a fan­tas­tic laugh doing it. It was hilar­i­ous to do it. And all around the world peo­ple laughed and they got the joke and they sort of under­stood it.

I remem­ber being on the pro­mo tour in the Mid­west of Amer­i­ca and peo­ple’s faces turn­ing ashen and they would say, no, we can’t play this. We can’t pos­si­bly play this. You know, it looks homo­sex­u­al. And I went, so? But it was a huge deal. And I know that it real­ly dam­aged our sort of whole rela­tion­ship with cer­tain­ly radio in this coun­try and prob­a­bly the pub­lic as well…

But it was very dif­fi­cult for us to sort of get back. And there’s a whole kind of gap in Queen his­to­ry if you view it from Amer­i­ca. And Fred­die was very aware of that. And we nev­er real­ly came back and toured the way we should’ve done. You know, every place else in the world, we played foot­ball sta­di­ums. But it nev­er hap­pened in the States. And Fred­die, when I played him this thing, said — (laugh­ter) well, he said, you know, it might do for us what noth­ing else would do, and he was dead right.

You know, it’s amaz­ing that even the fact that Fred­die died did­n’t make that much of a dif­fer­ence. But the fact that Wayne’s World put it in their film did make a dif­fer­ence. And I sup­pose the quote that I’m steer­ing clear of is that Fred­die, at one point, said to me, you know, I sup­pose I’ll have to [exple­tive] die before we ever get big in Amer­i­ca again.

While that is true, I’m not too sure about this “banned video” busi­ness. I saw this video a lot on MTV. I remem­ber both my par­ents laugh­ing at the video because it remind­ed them of the Pythons. And apart from a line repeat­ed over and over on the Inter­net and in some very recent Queen biogra­phies, it’s hard to find con­tem­po­rary proof that this ban hap­pened and when.

Being banned has often been great pub­lic­i­ty and often ginned up con­tro­ver­sy. But if you want to see a def­i­nite­ly banned Queen video, check out “Body Lan­guage,” from their 1982 album Hot Space. Filled with sweaty body parts, plen­ty of leather, and set in some sort of uni­sex bath­house, this indeed was banned by MTV. Believe me, I would have remem­bered see­ing this at the time if they hadn’t.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Mak­ing of “Bohemi­an Rhap­sody”: Take a Deep Dive Into the Icon­ic Song with Queen’s 2002 Mini Doc­u­men­tary

The Joy of Expe­ri­enc­ing Queen’s Bohemi­an Rhap­sody for the Very First Time: Watch Three Reac­tion Videos

Hear How Queen’s “Bohemi­an Rhap­sody” Would Sound If Sung by John­ny Cash, David Bowie, Janis Joplin, Frank Sina­tra & 38 Oth­er Artists

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the artist inter­view-based FunkZone Pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

How David Lynch Manipulates You: A Close Reading of Mulholland Drive

David Lynch mess­es with your mind. You’ve prob­a­bly heard vari­a­tions on that obser­va­tion before, as like­ly to come from peo­ple who love Lynch’s films as from those who can’t stand them. Unlike most “nor­mal” film­mak­ers, who tell sto­ries com­fort­ably ensconced in the real­i­ty that the tra­di­tion of cin­e­ma has built, Lynch has always told his sto­ries in a cin­e­mat­ic real­i­ty of his own, built out of the exist­ing ele­ments of cin­e­ma but bolt­ed togeth­er by him in sur­pris­ing and often unset­tling ways. Hence his name’s long-ago con­ver­sion into an adjec­tive: David Lynch movies are Lynchi­an, and it falls to we who watch them to deal with the psy­cho­log­i­cal effects — fright­en­ing, thrilling, com­plete­ly dis­ori­ent­ing, or some com­bi­na­tion of those and more — that Lynchi­an­ness stirs with­in us.

In the video essay “Mul­hol­land Dri­ve: How Lynch Manip­u­lates You,” Evan Puschak, bet­ter known at the Nerd­writer, breaks down Lynch’s process of mind-mess­ing, at least as it works in one par­tic­u­lar scene of one of his best-known and most acclaimed films, Mul­hol­land Dri­ve. Lynch, Puschak explains, “uses expec­ta­tion as a tool. He wields expec­ta­tion — the expec­ta­tion that comes from what we know about film, about its his­to­ry, the his­to­ry of sto­ries, and from our human­i­ty — with the same nuance and pow­er as some­one else might use light to cre­ate a vari­ety of moods in a space.”

Mul­hol­land Dri­ve, which seems to begin as the sto­ry of a would-be blonde ingenue arriv­ing in Hol­ly­wood with dreams of mak­ing it big, gets fur­ther and fur­ther off kil­ter as it goes, lever­ag­ing the osten­si­ble stiff­ness and even corni­ness it dares to present at the begin­ning to deliv­er a much dark­er and more com­plex cin­e­mat­ic expe­ri­ence in the end. “All through­out the film, from the over­dubbed dia­logue on down, David Lynch has made us privy to the veneer of things,” says Puschak. “It’s all curi­ous­ly two-dimen­sion­al, and that puts us on our guard, since sur­faces are what we get. Lynch encour­ages us to exam­ine those sur­faces, always remain­ing detached enough for a dis­in­ter­est­ed, crit­i­cal view of what we’re see­ing.”

But “as with every­thing that Lynch does, this two-dimen­sion­al­i­ty, this flat­ness, is also a decep­tion. While we think we’re on our guard, supe­ri­or to the cloy­ing emo­tions of Hol­ly­wood wish-ful­fill­ment, Lynch rel­ish­es drop­ping the bot­tom out, show­ing us just how unpre­pared for and sus­cep­ti­ble we are to emo­tions that our soci­ety trea­sures or deeply fears.” In Mul­hol­land Dri­ve he accom­plish­es this over and over again by using ancient Hol­ly­wood stereo­types, film noir tropes, a night­club singer lip-sync­ing to a Roy Orbi­son song in Span­ish, a cave­man liv­ing behind a Sun­set Strip din­er, Ange­lo Badala­men­ti spit­ting out an espres­so, Bil­ly Ray Cyrus, and much more besides. And as both Lynch’s fans and detrac­tors must sus­pect, he no doubt has a few more ways to drop the bot­toms out from under his audi­ences in his tool­box yet.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Sur­re­al Film­mak­ing of David Lynch Explained in 9 Video Essays

What Makes a David Lynch Film Lynchi­an: A Video Essay

An Ani­mat­ed David Lynch Explains Where He Gets His Ideas

David Lynch Mus­es About the Mag­ic of Cin­e­ma & Med­i­ta­tion in a New Abstract Short Film

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

How Peter Jackson Made His State-of-the-Art World War I Documentary, They Shall Not Grow Old: An Inside Look

There are very few work­ing direc­tors today who can do what Peter Jack­son does so well—create extra­or­di­nary spec­ta­cles on the grand­est of scales while also stay­ing tight­ly focused on char­ac­ter devel­op­ment and emo­tion­al depth. He’s made mis­steps. His Hob­bit tril­o­gy felt bloat­ed, busy and unnec­es­sary, but one rea­son it so dis­ap­point­ed was because he’d already shown him­self a mas­ter of fan­ta­sy film­mak­ing with what many con­sid­ered the unfilm­ma­ble Lord of the Rings.

Of course non-Tolkien-relat­ed Jack­son films like Heav­en­ly Crea­tures also show­case these strengths, on a small­er scale: the abil­i­ty to retain the human dimen­sion amidst cin­e­mat­ic spec­ta­cles and inhu­man dark­ness (a qual­i­ty he mined explic­it­ly in his years as a hor­ror direc­tor). All of these sen­si­bil­i­ties, includ­ing a pro­nounced streak of dark humor and tal­ent for manip­u­lat­ing his audi­ences, make him the ide­al direc­tor for a doc­u­men­tary on World War I.

It’s a con­flict that makes lit­tle his­tor­i­cal sense to most of us, that unfold­ed on a scale few of us can imag­ine, with few iden­ti­fi­able heroes and vil­lains and a com­pli­cat­ed geopo­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion that can feel out of our grasp.

Many doc­u­men­taries on the war are infor­ma­tive but, frankly, quite dull. In striv­ing for objec­tiv­i­ty, they lose sight of human­i­ty. Rather than adopt the voice of god and news­reel look that char­ac­ter­izes the usu­al fare, Jack­son has tak­en an active role in shap­ing the nar­ra­tive for us with cut­ting-edge block­buster cin­e­mat­ic tech­niques. He gives us char­ac­ters to care about in show­ing the hor­ror of trench war­fare, the con­fu­sion and cama­raderie of war. Though he uses orig­i­nal footage, it is dig­i­tal­ly enhanced and col­orized, screened in 3D, with record­ings of remem­brances from the sol­diers them­selves dra­mat­i­cal­ly over­laid to cre­ate the sense that the fig­ures we see onscreen are speak­ing to us.

The result, as Guy Lodge writes at Vari­ety, “is a tech­ni­cal daz­zler with a sur­pris­ing­ly humane streak…. So daz­zling­ly trans­for­ma­tive is the restora­tion of this footage that it may as well be the prod­uct of a movie shoot.” Indeed, once the cred­its roll, view­ers see the same “ver­i­ta­ble army of mag­ic-work­ing tech­ni­cians’ names” as they would on any big-bud­get action movie. Jack­son has, in effect, pro­duced “the world’s most state-of-the-art edu­ca­tion­al film,” apply­ing all the emo­tion­al levers and pul­leys of fea­ture film­mak­ing to a his­tor­i­cal archive.

Like most of us, stu­dents have trou­ble under­stand­ing the scale of the war and con­nect­ing with the lives of peo­ple so indis­tinct­ly pho­tographed and far away in time. Jack­son makes sure that they can do both, and his film will be sent to every high school in the U.K. Those schools will not, of course, be able to repro­duce the 3D effects. Yet even these, though they sound “gim­micky on the face of it,” writes Lodge, prove “to have an expe­ri­en­tial pur­pose, con­vey­ing the jud­der­ing move­ment and chaos of a con­flict many of us have large­ly viewed through cal­ci­fied still images.”

In the inter­views and behind the scenes videos here, we learn how Jack­son and his team solved the film speed prob­lem to make the old reels look nat­ur­al, how they cre­at­ed a col­or palette and removed blur­ri­ness and blem­ish­es. Jack­son also talks about his own per­son­al stake in the project, imag­in­ing what his grand­fa­ther endured in the Great War. This con­nec­tion seems to have spurred him all the more in the effort.

“To memo­ri­al­ize these sol­diers a hun­dred years lat­er,” he says, “is to try to bring some of their human­i­ty back into the world again, to stop them being a black and white cliché.” In cre­at­ing this mov­ing memo­r­i­al, Jack­son goes far beyond the man­date of an edu­ca­tion­al film. He has used all the tech­niques at his dis­pos­al to make good on the promise in Robert Lau­rence Binyon’s 1914 poem “For the Fall­en,” from which the doc­u­men­tary takes its title:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years con­demn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morn­ing
We will remem­ber them.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Peter Jackson’s New Film on World War I Fea­tures Incred­i­ble Dig­i­tal­ly-Restored Footage From the Front Lines: Get a Glimpse

Watch World War I Unfold in a 6 Minute Time-Lapse Film: Every Day From 1914 to 1918

The Great War: Video Series Will Doc­u­ment How WWI Unfold­ed, Week-by-Week, for the Next 4 Years

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

Watch 99 Movies Free Online Courtesy of YouTube & MGM: Rocky, The Terminator, Four Weddings and a Funeral & More

We all have those major motion pic­tures we’re sure we’ll see one day, but some­how haven’t seen yet. Usu­al­ly they’ve had such a huge influ­ence on pop­u­lar cul­ture, inspir­ing decades of ref­er­ences, homages, and jokes, that we feel like we’ve seen them any­way. Back in the days of yore when tele­vi­sion reigned supreme, we might occa­sion­al­ly catch one of them (or most of one of them) while flip­ping chan­nels at night, albeit in a form re-edit­ed to remove sen­si­tive con­tent and fit the image onto a square screen. Giv­en how dra­mat­i­cal­ly those view­ing prac­tices have migrat­ed to the inter­net in the 21st cen­tu­ry, it only makes good sense that Youtube — that vast tem­ple of mod­ern-day chan­nel-flip­ping — would strike a deal with a Hol­ly­wood stu­dio to make more than a few of these movies avail­able, free to view.

Just this month, MGM put near­ly 100 of its films up on Youtube, some of the best known of which include The Ter­mi­na­tor, the Rocky and Pink Pan­ther movies, Legal­ly Blonde, Dirty Rot­ten Scoundrels, and Four Wed­dings and a Funer­al. Some of them you’ve almost cer­tain­ly seen (and quite pos­si­bly want to see again), and oth­ers you’ve been mean­ing to see for ten, twen­ty, thir­ty, maybe even forty years.

Just like on tele­vi­sion, the fact that you can watch them for free means that they come with ads, albeit ads less intru­sive than tra­di­tion­al com­mer­cial breaks — unless you pay the month­ly $9.99 USD for Youtube Pre­mi­um, in which case they’ll play ad-free. (And in any case, they’re avail­able at the moment only to view­ers in the Unit­ed States.) And also, as in the days of wee-hours chan­nel-surf­ing, you’ll find the acclaimed clas­sics mixed in with less­er-known pic­tures, even odd­i­ties, that may hold even more cin­e­mat­ic fas­ci­na­tion.

Some of the unex­pect­ed titles among MGM’s free movies on Youtube include doc­u­men­taries like Jiro Dreams of Sushi — the one about the most stern­ly and obses­sive­ly ded­i­cat­ed sushi chef in Tokyo, and prob­a­bly the world, you may remem­ber every­one talk­ing about a few years ago — and With Great Pow­er: The Stan Lee Sto­ry, post­ed no doubt in trib­ute to the recent­ly deceased com­ic book-indus­try leg­end. Cin­e­mat­i­cal­ly-inclined read­ers who remem­ber with amuse­ment the inter­net and our per­cep­tions of the inter­net back in the cable-TV days should take note that the free MGM col­lec­tion on Youtube Movies also includes Hack­ers, Hol­ly­wood’s most vivid depic­tion of the fear and opti­mism that swirled around com­put­ers and their con­nect­ed­ness in the mid-1990s. We had a fair few unre­al­is­tic expec­ta­tions of the inter­net back then, which that movie and movies like it now reveal, but how many of us dared imag­ine that it would take over the role of the tele­vi­sion?

Relat­ed Con­tent:

1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, etc.

101 Free Silent Films: The Great Clas­sics

60 Free Film Noir Movies

New York­ers Can Now Stream 30,000 Free Movies, Includ­ing the Entire Cri­te­ri­on Col­lec­tion, with Their Library Cards

10,000 Clas­sic Movie Posters Get­ting Dig­i­tized & Put Online by the Har­ry Ran­som Cen­ter at UT-Austin: Free to Browse & Down­load

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.