Film Review: Side by Side

Side by SideA documentary focusing on Hollywood and its use digital and photochemical film, Side by Side is a must-see for anyone with an interest in cinema.

Actor and producer Keanu Reeves explores cinemas use of photochemical film, and the more recent prevalence of digital film. Speaking to directors, cinematographers, actors and editors, Reeves uncovers the preference for each particular film type, as well as their advantages and limitations…

Side by Side is a fascinating look at contemporary Hollywood. The debate that the documentary focuses on is acutely current; concerning films that are being made as this film is being screened. Director Chris Kenneally offers viewers some context at the beginning of the film. Narrator Keanu Reeves explains the technology behind digital and photochemical film. This will not be enlightening to those with a familiarity with cinema, but will give others a better understanding and ensure that the documentary is universally comprehensible.

What gives Side by Side distinction, and a seal of approval, is the variety of filmmakers that Keanu Reeves interviews. Most of these are well known Hollywood names, although Reeves also speaks to lesser known crew. The contrast in opinions that the film depicts is striking. Some directors fall firmly on the side of digital (James Cameron for example) while others are staunch film advocates (Christopher Nolan). With strong opinions like these, it is Martin Scorsese who appears as the voice of balance.

By talking to filmmakers and exploring the technical debates of the digital versus film argument, Side by Side investigates its topic without swaying a certain way. What becomes clear is the passionate way that the interviewees talk about cinema, regardless of their specific preference. Similarly, the makers of Side by Side choose not to weigh down on a particular side, letting the audience make up their own minds about the debate.