Capturing a fleeting moment in time before it disappears forever is one of the essential functions of a film camera. A new documentary, “Side by Side,” aims to grasp the transition from photochemical film to digital in an objective way, by talking to some of the most opinionated people in the business, from George Lucas to Lars von Trier to David Fincher. The movie premiered Thursday at the Berlin International Film Festival in the Berlinale Special section.
“Side by Side” is directed by Chris Kenneally (“Crazy Legs Conti: Zen and the Art of Competitive Eating”), with Keanu Reeves playing a dual role as co-producer (with Justin Szlasa) and interviewer. The two have woven a user-friendly but detailed look at the tools and techniques that are challenging tradition, working their way through filming, editing, color correction, digital effects, distribution, projection, and archiving.
Kenneally and Reeves came up with the project while working together on “Henry's Crime.” Reeves starred in and produced the 2010 film; Kenneally supervised its post-production. “We were having all the same conversations you see in the movie,” remembers Kenneally. “One day Keanu's just like, 'You know what? We should make a documentary about this.' ”
The two went on to interview a lengthy dream list of directors, cinematographers, editors, technicians, and even a couple of NYU film students, all of whom have heartfelt and often hilarious commentary to offer Reeves, who elicits a relaxed conversational tone from his subjects.