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Another Look at Princess Diana, With a Notable Difference

The princes agreed, and offered to show photographs from recently discovered albums created for them by Diana. The documentary opens with William, 35, and Harry, 32, looking at a photograph of a pregnant Diana holding her very small first son. “Believe it or not, you and I are both in this picture,” William tells Harry. Then the camera cuts to Harry. “Arguably, probably a little bit too raw up until this point. It’s still raw,” he says.

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Prince Harry, left, and Prince William in the documentary “Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy.”

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HBO

It’s a poignant moment that reveals the differences between the two men. William, although candid about memories, is polished and circumspect, as he has presumably learned to be in his more exposed role as second in line to the throne. Harry is less guarded, more revealing. (Recently, he has publicly expressed his regret at waiting until the age of 28 to seek counseling to help deal with the trauma of losing his mother.)

“It’s really a film about love and memory, which makes it unusual as a royal film, which are often more about respect,” Mr. Gething said. “It’s about sadness and joy and loss. On the one hand it’s very personal, but it’s also universal; you can relate to the things they remember and talk about.”

Mr. Kent said that there were no topics deemed off-limits, nor was editorial approval demanded by the palace. (The princes’ well-honed training in discretion, and the way Diana is lovingly shown through their eyes, probably made that unnecessary anyway.) The film moves in and out of the interview with the princes as it loosely sketches Diana’s life. We see home movies of her as a child, the youngest daughter of the venerable aristocratic Spencer family, and photographs of a pretty, shy teenager, as friends from her early years recount their memories. “We wanted it to feel like a story from the inside, so deliberately didn’t interview some of the people you might expect,” Mr. Kent said.

Mr. Gething added: “There were not going to be biographers, prime ministers and royalty experts. Just the people who knew her and loved her best.”

The film largely ignores the scandal, media frenzy and speculation over Diana and Charles’s infidelities, televised confessional interviews and subsequent divorce, although the princes offer stoic, sad memories of too much time spent in cars driving between their parents, and never seeing enough of either. The most moving part of the documentary has the princes discussing their memories of their last phone call with their mother, speaking from Paris, where she would die in a midnight car chase, as her driver tried to escape a horde of photographers following the car. “It’s like an earthquake just run through the house and through your life and everything,” Prince William said about learning of her death.

Mr. Gething and Mr. Kent said that given how many documentaries have been made about Diana, they didn’t feel any obligation to be comprehensive or definitive. (These are as varied as the relatively sober “Diana: Queen of Hearts” and the more out-there “Conspiracy.”) “A reference point for all our decisions was the idea that we were making a film that in years to come, the princes could show their children,” Mr. Kent said.

The final section of the film focuses on Diana’s charity work for the homeless, AIDS patients and land mine victims. It also shows the princes’ sustained efforts to continue in her path, as they visit homeless shelters, comfort the bereaved and meet two Bosnian men who lost limbs in explosions, both of whom Diana visited a few weeks before she died, when they were teenagers.

What the documentary also shows is Diana’s other important legacy: what Tina Brown describes in her 2007 biography, “The Diana Chronicles,” as “the understanding of the power of the inclusive gesture.” The new generation of royals clearly realizes that the remote, private world of their grandparents is a thing of the past in a new media age.

It is uncanny, Mr. Gething said, to see how much like their mother they are when meeting people. “There is an informality, a personal touch, a sense of humor,” he said. “It would be difficult to imagine in a pre-Diana age.”

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