Documentary Review: Side by Side (2012)

Release Date: February 15th, 2012
Directed by: Christopher Kenneally
Music by: Brendan Ryan, Billy Ryan

Company Films, Tribeca Film. Axiom Films, 98 Minutes


I just watched the documentary Side By Side, which looked at both photochemical and the newer digital style of film creation. It was produced and narrated by Keanu Reeves, who also conducted the interviews with all the people in the film. The most notable interviewees were George Lucas, James Cameron, David Lynch, Christopher Nolan, David Fincher, Steven Soderbergh, Martin Scorsese, Robert Rodriguez and Joel Schumacher. There were a lot of others who also gave their insight to both film creation methods.

The film was well put together and wonderfully executed. It was easy to grasp for the hardcore film buff, as well as the novice.

Side By Side didn’t make an argument in favor of one method or the other, it just allowed each person to state their feelings, opinions and experience with these two mediums. Keanu did a good job interviewing the subjects and asked a lot of really good questions. The subjects also held nothing back, unafraid of who they might offend on one side of the argument or another. It was enlightening and informative to listen to all sides of the debate. Both styles have their pros and cons and both are useful.

In the views of some of the subjects in the documentary, it almost felt as if this were somewhat of a swan song to photochemical film. Camera manufacturers are no longer building film cameras and have gone 100 percent digital. While that seems like a nail in the coffin of an artistic discipline that has existed for over a century, this documentary provides some stark insight as to why that isn’t the case.

The film also allows digital filmmaking pioneers like George Lucas and James Cameron to defend themselves from all the naysayers who years ago accused both men of destroying the film industry. Side By Side also serves up a lot of counterarguments to points made throughout the film. The editing style of overlapping interviews in this film was well done and just added extra points to the discussion while previous points were still fresh.

I enjoyed this film a lot and it is one of the best documentaries involving the filmmaking process. It focuses on just one topic in filmmaking but Side By Side handles the subject great and fleshes it out into something more thought-provoking than initially anticipated.

Rating: 7/10