Narrated by Keanu Reeves, Side by Side is, at its core, a study of film and the methods that are used to create film. The documentary begins with a comparison between digital filming and traditional filming and proceeds on to discuss such topics as to 3D or not to 3D, editing, and the advancement of special effects. In each shot, Reeves sits down with a different filmmaker and discusses the industry as a whole as well as the preferred methods of each person. In this way, the audience is treated to a small conversation with a number of well-known directors, editors, and others involved with the process, such as Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, and Christopher Nolan, all of whom share not only a taste of their own personal styles but also what it is they love about film in the first place.
I confess I don’t know just a whole lot about the filmmaking process. I like to think I know a great deal about movies, to be sure, but as far as actually making a film, I’m far less educated than many of my critical brethren. Side by Side raised my level of knowledge quite a bit and managed to do so in an interesting and enjoyable manner. It is a fascinating documentary that takes its subject matter seriously without becoming pretentious or full of itself. That is to say, there is a distinct art to making a great film that Side by Side makes every effort to highlight but this is done with a light, conversational tone that makes this film unceasingly appealing. Director Christopher Kenneally (through his proxy, Reeves) takes the time to explain what his subjects are talking about but does so concisely and eloquently so that all viewers, whether veteran filmmakers or complete novices like myself, may remain on the same footing. If you don’t know much about the way film editing was accomplished before computers took over the world, Side by Side will explain it to you and then allow a veteran editor to tell you why the new techniques are better or worse. Simultaneously, the film takes a good hard look at the age of digital filmmaking and allows for an argument regarding its merits without passing judgment or ever taking a definitive side. In this manner, Side by Side truly lives up to its title.
Personally I have no beef with digital filming and couldn’t begin to make a legitimate argument as to why it is better or worse than shooting on film. But you know who does have an opinion? Christopher Nolan does, as do David Fincher, Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, Robert Rodriguez, and virtually any other director who has ever made a film, whether a great blockbuster or a tiny student project. To hear these men and women discuss their methods and the techniques they use to make film in such an open forum is a unique experience that the average moviegoer isn’t often privy to. As such, Side by Side is one of the more enjoyable movies you’re likely to see and if you’re a fan of film at all, I highly recommend a viewing.
Side by Side Director: Christopher Kenneally Cast: Keanu Reeves, Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, James Cameron Rated: Not rated (some language in interviews) Recommended For: Any film fan, ages 13+ Available on Netflix Instant