Hosted by Keanu Reeves, this documentary examines the ongoing debate about the advance of digital filmmaking and its impact on the medium. Up until the mid ’90s, photochemical film was the exclusive format for making movies and had been for over 100 years, but now digital has evolved to a point where it may well replace film altogether. Reeves interviews various top-flight directors, cinematographers and technicians from both sides of the debate…
While Side By Side probably won’t interest casual cinemagoers who don’t give a hoot how movies are made, it provides a fascinating, informed and thought-provoking inside-look for films fans who do. Unlike most documentaries, what’s refreshing about this one is that writer-director Christopher Kenneally presents persuasive arguments from both sides of the debate. It’s perhaps telling that Kenneally opted to shoot in digital (feel free to make of that what you will), but he still presents an even-handed balance between the two viewpoints.
Giving the project real weight, though, is the hugely impressive array of genuine A-list directors assembled to lend their perspective on the matter. Such as? Well, there’s techno-pioneers James Cameron and George Lucas (no prizes for guessing which side they’re on), David Lynch, Chris Nolan, Robert Rodriguez, David Fincher (who has a great story about Robert Downey Jr. peeing in jars), Martin Scorsese, Steven Soderbergh (who feels he should “call film and say ‘I’ve met someone.’”), Danny Boyle, the Wachowskis and more. At the risk of spoiling the surprise, it’s really only Nolan and his regular DoP Wally Pfister who’re on the side of film (as well as various cinematographers), but we’re still persuaded back and forth throughout.
Keanu Reeves, alternating between various stages of beardiness, is undoubtedly a surprising (read: WTF) choice to front something like this. But while there’s probably some truth to the fact that his ‘name’ opened certain doors (you imagine the aforementioned directors would take his call), he makes for a personable and enthusiastic interviewer (if slightly monotone while providing the voiceover).
While Side By Side probably won’t interest casual cinemagoers who don’t give a hoot how movies are made, it provides a fascinating, informed and thought-provoking inside-look for films fans who do. Essential viewing for anyone interested in filmmaking or the unique sight of Keanu Reeves shooting the breeze with David Lynch.