Tribeca Film Festival Review “Side by Side”

Directed by: Chris Keneally
Producers: Chris Keneally, Keanu Reeves
Featuring: Keanu Reeves, Martin Scorsese, Christopher Nolan, David Fincher, James Cameron, George Lucas
Tribeca Film Festival
Running time: 99 minutes

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

Film lovers may or may not know that as of October 2011 the major manufacturers of cameras for motion pictures–Arri, Panavision, Aaton– stopped making new film cameras. In January of this year Eastman Kodak filed for bankruptcy in the face of insurmountable digital competitors. So is celluloid film dead?

This is the central question up for debate in Side by Side, an in depth documentary produced by Keanu Reeves and directed by Chris Keneally, which takes a look at the digital revolution which has been picking up steam in Hollywood since the turn of the millennium. The doc is making its stateside debut at this week’s Tribeca Film Fest with a planned release in August.

Reeves and Keneally have rounded up an impressive roster of interviewees who fall on all sides of the digital-versus-film argument and come from every step in the production and post-production process. In this corner we have director Christopher Nolan and his cinematographer Wally Pfister maintaining they’ll be the last people shooting on film, and in this corner we have digital proponents such as George Lucas and Robert Rodriguez swearing off celluloid for good. Occupying the middle ground are heavy hitters like David Fincher, David Lynch, Steven Soderbergh and Martin Scorsese (fresh off the digitally-shot “Hugo”).

The documentary itself never takes a side which makes the debate that much more engaging and I found myself shifting allegiance throughout. Additionally, on-screen interviewer Reeves is great at getting honest, candid reactions from his insider interviewees. Furthermore Keneally takes the time to explain the mechanics behind much of the debate’s technical aspects, a step which may cause digital-saavy folk to become a little bored, but it certainly makes the doc more accessible to the average movie goer.

In the end the most startling thing about Side by Side is how rapidly this technological change is occurring. In 1999, for the debut of The Phantom Menace, only four theatres in the country had digital projectors, four years later–in time for Attack of the Clones–there were 150. Statistics like this made me grateful that these filmmakers have been there to record, in whatever form they choose, this massive shift in cinema.

Upcoming TFF Screenings of Side by Side:
Tues. 4/24 – 8:30pm, SVA Theater 2 Beatrice
Thu. 4/26 – 7:00pm, AMC Loews Village 7-2
Fri. 4/27 – 2:30pm, AMC Loews Village 7-3
Sat. 4/28 – 4:00pm, AMC Loews Village 7-2
Sun. 4/29 – 2:30pm, SVA Theater 2 Beatrice

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