Features: Keanu Reeves, Martin Scorsese, Vilmos Zsigmond, James Cameron, David Fincher, Wally Pfister, Dion Beebe, Vittorio Storaro, Robert Rodriguez, Steven Soderbergh, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski, Donald McAlpine, Michael Chapman, Walter Murch, Greta Gerwig and George Lucas.
Director: Chris Kenneally

MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL Screenings - Sun 5 Aug, 1.30pm; Wed 8 Aug, 4.30pm.

Rating: 4/5


Capturing a paradigm shift in the life cycle of the American motion picture, Chris Kenneally’s remarkably captivating doco Side by Side only occasionally teeters over into the kind of hard-to-decipher techtalk that threatens to distance average moviegoers. For the most part, it is an enthralling collection of A-list talking heads arguing their stance on the digital-vs-film debate.

Hosted by an omnipresent Keanu Reeves, exhibiting far more warmth and personality than he has in any of his last half-dozen acting parts, Side by Side darts and weaves between the most savvy of Hollywood’s directorial talents, each of them espousing on the pros and cons of new camera technology. Such erudite and informed speakers as Scorsese, Fincher, Soderbergh, Cameron, Rodriguez, Linklater, Nolan and Lucas (though, oddly, no Spielberg), as well as cinematographers and technical craftsmen from the field of in-camera technology, all speak with a fierce passion for their preferred medium.

Reeves has worked with several of the filmmakers on past projects and engages them on their views with an informed and open interviewing style. Those new to the debate won’t feel lost for long; easy-to-grasp graphics describing the technology under scrutiny ensures the debate is easily comprehended. The doco will lose some when it delves into the benefits of the latest digital-camera workings; if the word ‘Red’ is still just a colour to you, the 70 minute mark is perhaps a good time for that bathroom break.

Enlivened by scene clips from dozens of films and propelled forward by a determination on Kenneally’s part to keep things fluid and fascinating rather than argumentative and academic, Side by Side is top-tier festival fodder and a must-own DVD item for any film buff. It will ultimately become a time-capsule document of a point in the film industry’s history when a line in the sand is drawn by one faction and defied and crossed by the other.

Oh, and it was shot on digital.

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