Keanu Reeves hosts this documentary about the science, art and impact of digital cinema, exploring the decline (and perhaps demise) of photochemical film, and the pros and cons of its digital successor, with an array of directors, cinematographers and other filmmakers.
One glance at Kenneally’s interview list will convince you that he takes his remit seriously: along with big-name directors (Boyle, Cameron, Fincher, Lucas, Lynch, Nolan, Scorsese, Soderbergh, von Trier and the Wachowskis), Keneally and Keanu Reeves, his on-screen avatar, sit down with cinematographers, technicians and executives from both sides of the debate. It’s refreshing that each is allowed to make its own case, especially given that, in these opinionated times, ‘documentary’ is often a synonym for ‘polemic’. And although there are compelling arguments on both sides, Side By Side refuses to hedge its bets. While the title suggests that the film will make a qualitative comparison, it actually refers to the current state of mostly peaceful co-existence between the two formats, a détente that cannot continue indefinitely. After all, as celluloid advocate Christopher Nolan puts it, “A transition starts with people offering a new choice, but it finishes with taking the old choice away.”
Wherever you stand on the celluloid-versus-digital debate, Kenneally’s documentary, hosted by an endearingly affable Reeves, is well-researched, informative and absorbing, arguably marred only by the omnipresent underscore. Oh, and for the record: it was shot digitally.
Reviewed by David Hughes