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Side by Side


It’s the story that matters – ★★★★½

We Spoooolers were lucky enough to catch Side by Side as part of the Digital Biscuit screening a few weeks ago. Thankfully a wider audience will get a chance to see it when it opens exclusively at the IFI this Friday. Keanu Reeves takes us on a journey into the bowels of the film industry to debate which is better – digital or film?

When you first hear that Neo is going to take you on a guided tour of the movie business you’d be forgiven for raising an eyebrow. To his credit though he brings across a passion for the topic and with his voice narrating we are put at ease when he explains the difference between the processes involved. The fact that he is doing the interviewing is also why he got access to the people he did. Keanu is part of the club, he knows what’s it like to work with both systems and might look more fairly than a hardened journalist or die hard romantic for film. He doesn’t show any favour and credibly fights both corners.

Master and student

Master and student

Keanu assembles pretty much every major film-maker in the industry today. From innovators who spearheaded the digital revolution like George Lucas and James Cameron to strong proponents of film such as Christopher Nolan and those who like to swing both ways like Martin Scorsese. Lucas probably gets the most speaking time of anyone which is fine as he really did push for digital in a big way as Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace was the first film to be screened using digital projectors (all 4 of them). While it was a slow process initially it soon became the norm for movie theatres around the world. Lucas speaks with the urgency of a innocent man on trial for murder. Many did see him as the devil incarnate come to kill cinema forever and you get the impression he wants the record to show his side of the story.

Purists will always love film but you can’t deny the revolutionary quality of digital – it’s cheaper, gives more freedom due to the size of the camera and allows more people to tell their story. There are fantastic anecdotes from the likes of David Fincher about how the cinematographer loved the voodoo of their art and how many noses were put out of joint when it came to the editing suite.

You know I'm deadly, right?

You know I’m deadly, right?

Some interviewees come across better than others with Christopher Nolan so far up his own ass you wonder how his cinematographer Wally Pfister fits up aswell. The piece is exploding with insights, gripes and humour about the medium we love so much. Keanu has taken us back stage and into the minds of the people who eat sleep and breath movies.

Christopher Kenneally the writer/director has done an amazing job at constructing this arduous task and the skill of editors Malcolm Hearn and Mike Long in assembling what can only have been days if not weeks of interview footage is incredibly impressive.  The crux of the issue really isn’t whether it’s digital or film but if the story is any good. Once you have a good story it’s half the battle and Side by Side is one hell of a story.

USA  /  Directed By: Christopher Kenneally  /  99min  /   Documentary   /  Release: 15 February 2013 (UK/Irl), 22 August 2012 (USA/Canada)