Side by Side (3 stars)

Side by Side

A-list directors on film vs digital debate in doc produced and presented by Keanu Reeves

The title of this reasonably interesting and fairly comprehensive documentary about traditional photochemical film and pioneering digital technology is slightly misleading. Although filmmakers have been using both forms for roughly the last decade and a half, film is quickly and oh so very surely being replaced by digitally shot features. That shift is reflected in writer and director and experienced post-production supervisor Christopher Kenneally’s (digitally shot) doc, which, while making an attempt to present a balanced view of the pros and cons of both forms of technology, ultimately comes down on the side of the technology of the future.

Taking us through the brief history of film versus digital is actor Keanu Reeves, who also produced the film. At first, this seems like an odd choice of host for a doc that’s quite tech-heavy, geeky even. However, given Reeves became a star playing the messiah of the digi-verse in The Matrix trilogy and his genial presence turns out to be wholly apposite. On a more practical level, Reeves’ stardom no doubt opened doors and gave him and Kenneally access to the Hollywood-centric gallery famous faces here making grand claims for film and for digital, many of whom they might otherwise have been unable to secure. It’s curious to see which side of the argument the interviewees come down on, although it’s also somewhat disturbing. Of the A-list directors interviewed, among them James Cameron, Danny Boyle, George Lucas, David Lynch, Martin Scorsese, and Lars von Trier, David Fincher, Richard Linklater, Christopher Nolan and Steven Soderbergh, only one of the bunch comes out fully in favour of film.

At once a celebration of new technology and a lamentation of a passing one, Side by Side is oddly depressing to watch.

Limited release from Fri 8 Mar.

Side By Side Trailer

Side by Side

  • 3 stars
  • 2012
  • US
  • 1h 38min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Christopher Kenneally
  • Written by: Christopher Kenneally
  • Cast: Keanu Reeves
  • UK release: 15 February 2013

Documentary about the pros and cons of making films using traditional photochemical processes as opposed to digital technology. Narrator/interviewer Reeves is a genial presence and the interviews are with A-list directors, but being both a celebration of new technology and a lament for a passing one, it's all oddly…

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