The ultimate question for filmmakers and film lovers in general is “Digital or Film?” It’s a question that has many different arguments for both sides.
It also makes a great topic for a documentary.
Side by Side is a documentary directed by Christopher Kenneally and produced and narrated by Keanu Reeves. Over the course of the film many people who’ve worked in the film industry are asked about how the process of filmmaking has changed over the past 100 years and what their opinion on the question is.
From the outside the argument seems quite simple.
The originally method of film making started with recording footage onto expensive film that can’t be viewed until the film has had time to develop. From there if the all of the footage is useable, it then has to be spliced together to make a work print. From there the finish produced has to be copied over and over again to send out the film to local movie theaters.
Digital is cheaper; it can be viewed as it’s being shot, and it can be easily uploaded onto a computer and then edited in programs like Final Cut to create a work print. From there the film can be copied easier and sent out faster.
Many modern filmmakers such as David Finch, George Lucas, James Cameron and the Wachowski’s have moved over onto the new technology. And in the case of films like the last two Star Wars films and Avatar, it helped make films that couldn’t be made using traditionally methods.
While this might seem like a one sided debate the inclusion of long time film supporters such as Christopher Nolan, balance out the film with their belief that traditional film makes the movie look and feel more expansive and helps the viewer become easier immersed in the film.
While the debate over film or digital might be interesting to film buffs, the presentation of the film might turn off lesser-interested viewers.
The main issue for the film comes from its narration. Despite the film only being 98 minutes it drags at certain points due in part to Reeves, at time, less than interesting voice over work.
Don’t get me wrong, when Reeves is talking during the interviews he has passion in what he says, but the voice over feels similar of Harrison Ford at the end of the original cut of Blade Runner, boring.
If you can see past those issues what you’ll find the documentary has an interesting question that deals with the accessibility of making films.
During the latter half of the film, director David Lynch asks:
“Everyone and their kid brother has paper and a pencil, but how many great works have been written?”
That question can spawn so many others.
If anyone can make art, does it mean that it’s good?
Is every video on YouTube or Tout art? If not then what is art?
While I don’t have the answers to any of those questions the film does leave the viewer questioning how impressive Citizen Kane is if everyone can shoot a film with a DSLR, put in online and have a million people view it.
Side By Side is a good documentary. It’s a great story about how stories are told that film lovers will eat up.
Side By Side was distrusted by Company Films and can be viewed in selected theaters and various video-on-demand services such as iTunes.