Side by Side | Berlin Film Festival 2012
Yesterday, 15th February, the Berlinale Special program premiered a not-too-nerdy yet well-researched documentary Side by Side, which marks the film industry’s gradual switch from celluloid to digital image capturing medium and analyses how it affects all stages of film-making: Acting, directing, cinematography, editing, visual effects supervision, exhibition, and preservation.
The documentary is directed by Chris Kenneally and produced by Keanu Reeves, who since November 2010, has interviewed 140 industry professionals – only 69 have made it to the final cut, including David Lynch, Martin Scorsese, George Lucas, Lars von Trier, James Cameron, Roger Deakins and many others whom you will not fail to recognise – to find out their take on the revolution that is happening silently on the other side of the lens.
The strength of Side by Side is its objectivity and multi-layeredness: It does not argue whether digital is as good as film (a question out of relevance for more than a couple of years now), nor announces celluloid’s death or tries to predict future developments. Instead, the film overviews the history of both mediums and their employment, explores differences of their aesthetics, reasons of use, the production and post-production workflows they impose. In other words – what happens when dailies are exchanged by ‘immediate lies’?
The unexpectedly wide scope of themes and aspects of digital revolution Side by Side manages to touch upon surprised me. I was expecting a film primarily about cinematography, but this documentary accommodates a great amplitude of different and often clashing views from professionals in various fields, giving a wider perspective and (if not so much technical then at least conceptual and historical) understanding of the topic. Keanu Reeves also seems like the perfect man for the job, providing an industry insider’s perspective and concern.
Side by Side is a must-see for people interested in film-making, but will also benefit those who know little about it. It encapsulates an important juncture in cinema’s history, where two technologies coexist equally side by side. It is also the first film to this date that examines the short life of a digital recording medium. It is still in its baby-steps, yet has already experienced a rapid and significant evolution – from the late 1990s, when film festival programmers would not even look at video footage and its usage was an abrupt aesthetic statement employed by Dogma 95, until this very day when digital is the only choice for CGI or 3D storytelling.
Watch the trailer of Side by Side here: