Side by Side should be required viewing in any film school worth its salt and, undoubtedly, will be.
But as up-to-the-minute as it is, by next year, it undoubtedly will be dated. And, before long, it will be a curiosity.
Why? Because director Christopher Kenneally goes directly at the question of whether emulsion film -- the standard for the first 100 years of motion-picture making -- is about to be replaced by digital technology.
In other words: Is film dead? Is it about to become obsolete?
Side by Side is a fascinating examination of that question and much more. Using Keanu Reeves (one of the film's producers) as the interviewer (which, no doubt, got access to people who otherwise might not have participated in this documentary), Kenneally offers up a brief, easily comprehensible history and overview of how film works, the development of digital imaging and arguments for both sides of the equation.
After a recent screening, a friend noted that the film would probably only interest film-school students and film geeks in general. But I have to demur: Anyone who is interested in the creative process, anyone who has even a passing interest in movies and their history -- and their future -- and anyone with even a modicum of curiosity about the way movies are made -- which would seem to be a lot of people -- can't help but get sucked in by this intriguing behind-the-scenes look.
Kenneally talks to a wide variety of people -- directors, producers, cinematographers, editors, actors -- who have worked in both formats (or who have resisted the transition to digital). The list ranges from such venerable cinematographers as Vilmos Szigmond, Vittorio Storaro and Donald McAlpine to directors like George Lucas, James Cameron, David Fincher, Steven Soderbergh, Martin Scorsese and Danny Boyle.
This review continues on my website.