I do not know what I would have done without the British Film Institute and its various film previews. One of those previews was SIDE BY SIDE documentary directed by Chris Kenneally ( post production supervisor: Henry’s Crime, 13 and director: Looking out for Number One) and produced by, one of my favourite actors, Keanu Reeves ( The Matrix, My Own Private Idaho) and Justin Szlasa. This fascinating film opened the most prestigious cinematography events in Poland : 20th Plus Camerimage Festival.
The film introduces the current situation in the world of those behind the camera. It also concentrates on digital moviemaking and the future of the film. Exciting interviews conducted by Keanu Reeves are engaging and enlightening. Apart from widely well known directors ( Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, James Cameron, Danny Boyle, Christopher Nolan) there are also discussions with great independent filmmakers ( Steven Soderbergh, Lars von Trier, Richard Linklater) and cinematographers ( Andrzej Bartkowiak, Wally Pfister, Michael Chapman). They all try to answer ‘which format, digital or film, they prefer?’, ‘what are the advantages and disadvantages of digital/ film moviemaking? ‘ and ‘ will there be anyone , in 20 years, making films on film camera? ‘
The best part of SIDE BY SIDE, besides the opportunity to listen to the cinematic masters, is lack of an unequivocal thesis. The filmmakers do not seem to take definite side on the subject, they support neither ‘conservative’ directors, from whom Christopher Nolan stands out as the one for whom film camera is the tool, nor ‘ liberal’ ones such as George Lucas, whose moviemaking concentrates on digital only, and whose innovating thinking slightly intimidates some directors and cinematographers. Both techniques in the documentary go ‘ side by side ‘ as the title of the film suggests. The purpose of digital and film making, you would have thought, is the same. Both try to tell the story through images, moving the audience to another world. And it is all brilliantly underlined in the documentary.
The directors and cinematographers’ answers to all the questions are intriguing. I have to say that SIDE BY SIDE is a great and valuable piece of work, recording the reactions of those working in the film industry in a thoughtful and interesting way. At the same time we learn more about celluloid film tape used in movie projectors and the beginning of the digital era. What interested me was Keanu’s view on film and digital (not included in the film) he once said that he was ” glad to have worked on 35 mm as an actor ” but he also said: ” I’m in the experience, at the moment, of shooting on digital, with an ARRI Alexa Studio camera (…) and the facility and speed of digital capture is appealing .” And when asked if there was something that he misses about film he said: “Philosophically, there is something grounding about this thing that you can just shine a light through and see through the emulsion to the image. With a digital camera, it’s in a black box and it has to be replaced reinterpreted and reassembled.” So which side are you on? Tough question if you asked me. I am still wondering, after seeing the film, if the digital technology is good for the cinema or if it’s going to cause its agony. SIDE BY SIDE is superb and worth seeing. It will be released in the UK in February 2013.
Written by Maggie Gogler
Pictures courtesy of SIDE BY SIDE and Company Films, LLC
References: Maria Garcia, filmjournal.com