Side by Side (Christopher Kenneally, 2012)

Keanu Reeves acts as the face for this documentary, which explores the argument of which offers a richer viewing experience in cinema: traditional photochemical methods of recording on film or modern digital methods.

The people interviewed to build up what results in a pretty varied and balanced argument is exhaustive and includes directors, cinematographers, colourists, scientists, artists and other people associated with films. George Lucas unsurprisingly falls on the side of digital as he was the first to release a wholly-digital film in the now-cheap-looking Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. Robert Rodriguez, also a digital advocate who uses his inspired methods to post-produce the graphic-novel-stylised Sin City as a springboard for his contributions, is an interesting contributor. Christopher Nolan comes across as a battle-hardened traditionalist who fights for every film he makes to not be done on digital film recorders. Danny Boyle offers an insightful discussion on the creative techniques used in 28 Days Later. Lara von Trier also discusses the Dogme 95 movement, which is so interesting it deserves its own film. Other interviewees include Phil Meheux, Martin Scorcese, Charles Herzfeld, Joel Schumacher and Alec Shapiro.

The documentary itself is rich in shots of masterpieces in cinema. It offers a great history of film and digital film, and a balanced opinion of which is better.

Keanu Reeves, in his role as the interviewer, is obviously very anti-digital. I couldn’t help wondering whether his passion for one side of the argument perhaps influenced everyone’s thought process on the subject matter when discussing, but it lifts it from a simple soundbite-style documentary by letting us know the creator actually has an opinion and wants to discuss the details with a host of interesting industry experts.

It’s a documentary that explores its subject thoroughly and in my opinion isn’t just for fans of the technical side of films. Each person has clearly been encouraged to be passionate about their anecdotes and the result is a highly entertaining documentary.

Side by Side is available now on DVD and Blu-Ray.

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