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Re-Mastered Battle of the Somme Film Premieres with Full Orchestral Accompaniment

1 October 2006

A digitally re-mastered version of the iconic First World War film, The Battle of the Somme, is to be screened with full orchestral accompaniment for the first time since the film’s original release in 1916. To mark the 90th anniversary of the battle, the Imperial War Museum is holding a special gala screening of the film, sponsored by The History Channel, at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on 22 October with a new orchestral accompaniment composed by Laura Rossi and performed by the Philharmonia Orchestra.

The Battle of the Somme, fought from 1 July - 18 November 1916, was the first British offensive of the First World War to which cameramen were given access, in order to film the front line action as it took place. Two official War Office cameramen, Geoffrey Malins and John McDowell, were attached to the British Expeditionary Forces and returned to London just ten days after the start of the battle with 8,000 feet of film. The resulting 80-minute film, The Battle of the Somme, was released in picture houses across the UK in August 1916, while the battle was still being fought. It made an enormous impression on the public and was seen by at least half the population. Audiences were greatly impressed by the film's realism, as well as being traumatised by the candid and unprecedented images of British wounded and dead. The Battle of the Somme also had considerable international impact, being shown to great acclaim throughout Europe, the Americas and in countries of the former British Empire.

The version of the film, which will premiere at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, has been re-mastered by the digital specialists Dragon D I, a process that has restored remarkable detail to the image and the film now has the depth and clarity of the version which so impressed audiences in 1916. With the support of the Eric Anker-Petersen Charity, the Imperial War Museum was able to commission Laura Rossi to write a new score to accompany the re-mastered version of the film. This score will be performed by the Philharmonia Orchestra, providing the audience with the opportunity to experience the film as it would have been seen in 1916 - at full length, on a large screen and with a live musical accompaniment. Members of Geoffrey Malins’ family, including his granddaughter, will be among the audience at this unique event.

Richard Melman, The History Channel's Director, said, ‘we are delighted to be sponsoring the presentation of this impressive and unique film and to be working in partnership with the IWM. Our viewers will also welcome the chance to see the movie next year on The History Channel.’

Laura Rossi has written extensively for film and television, including the critically acclaimed ‘Silent Shakespeare’ for the British Film Institute. Laura’s great uncle, Fred Ainge, was a stretcher-bearer attached to the 29th Division on the 1 July, and in preparation for composing the new score she visited the Somme Battlefields, using his diary account to locate the areas in which he served. She was previously commissioned by the Imperial War Museum to write a score for the Battle of the Ancre and the Advance of the Tanks (1917), the second of the official films of the Battle of the Somme which covers the autumn and winter stages of the campaign. Laura has also written music for ITV, Fox Searchlight, Carlton TV, HTV, Quintessence films and many new scores for BFI silent films.

In recognition of the film's importance as a documentary record, The Battle of the Somme has recently been inscribed on UNESCO's Memory of the World register. A ceremony marking this achievement - the first British ‘document’ to be so recognised - will take place before the screening.

The Battle of the Somme gala screening is one of a series of events organised by the Imperial War Museum this autumn to mark the 90th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. For a full programme of events visit www.iwm.org.uk/thesomme

Battle of the Somme

Sunday 22 October 2006, 7:30 pm
Queen Elizabeth Hall
Tickets: £20.00, £17.50, £15.00, £9.00
Booking Fee: £1.50 Members: 75p
Box Office 08703 800 400
www.rfh.org.uk

For Press Information Contact: Laura McKechan, Imperial War Museum,

Tel: 020 7416 5311, Email: lmckechan@iwm.org.uk