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Originally published Thursday, August 30, 2012 at 3:02 PM

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'Side by Side': Tracking the evolution of digital filmmaking

A movie review of "Side by Side," a timely documentary co-produced by Keanu Reeves and directed by Christopher Kenneally about the histories of digital and photochemical film creation.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 3 stars

'Side by Side,' a documentary written and directed by Christopher Kenneally. 99 minutes. Not rated; contains profanity. Grand Illusion.

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Keanu Reeves wants to know if David Lynch is "done with film" and ready for the digital revolution.

"Don't hold me to it, Keanu, but I think I am," Lynch replies. He's just acknowledging what has already happened. Thousands of theaters and filmmakers have left 35mm behind. Film has become obsolete.

Co-produced by Reeves, "Side by Side" is a kind of eulogy for celluloid, beginning with some of the most famous images committed to film: "A Trip to the Moon," "Citizen Kane," "The Wizard of Oz."

Reeves continues his chat with filmmakers who have embraced the switch (George Lucas and his "Star Wars" prequels), resisted it (Christopher Nolan) and some who have gone all the way with 3-D technology (James Cameron and "Avatar").

It may be a stretch to turn this transition into the subject of a feature film. At times the movie plays like a sequel to 1993's "Visions of Light: The Art of Cinematography," with its emphasis on technical solutions to artistic problems.

But it's also a valuable history of digital milestones. Did you know it all started in a New Jersey lab in 1969? Or that "Chuck & Buck" marked a significant turning point? Or that Lucas was once roasted for destroying the film industry? None of this, Reeves reminds us, happened all that long ago.

John Hartl:

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