As someone who spends one to two hours every day reading about Bitcoin, I assumed that the newly released documentary “The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin” wouldn’t have much to offer me. I assumed it would be some sort of primer for people who are unfamiliar with the technology.
Boy, was I wrong.
I wouldn’t have watched it, except that members of the Bitcoin subreddit kept posting rave reviews about it. One redditor even posted, “Just watched ‘The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin’. I immediately bought 5 Bitcoin during the credits.”
A film that stirs almost $2,000 worth of emotion in the soul of a crypto fan is enough to get me interested. So I headed on over to The Pirate Bay (which, to my delight, is going by “The Peace Bay” these days) and partook of a shared copy.
What I thought would be a primer was actually a rich chronicle of highlights of Bitcoin’s young history. But more than a yearbook, the film offered meaning for all of its stories, spoken by the people who lived them.
The documentary is narrated by Dan, a 35-year-old Bitcoin miner, father and computer programmer, as he travels the world for a year to record the history of Bitcoin firsthand. Dan attends Liberty Forum and PorcFest in New Hampshire, where almost every merchant accepts Bitcoin long before crypto fans were courted by the likes of Overstock. He takes us into the cozy Salt Lake City kitchen where Casascius Coins—arguably the most popular image of Bitcoin in the world—are made by hand.
We then visit San Francisco, where a shadow-faced “Mr. Bitcoin” explains how cryptocurrency and the Silk Road have removed much of the danger from his small-time drug trade. Dan visits Charlie Shrem, former CEO of BitInstant, right as his company triples its sales volumes. You can actually see the sweat on the brows of these young entrepreneurs as they fill a giant void in a trading world in which they only had one real competitor: Mt. Gox.
And speaking of Mt. Gox—want to see Mark Karpeles struggle to play piano? How about confront a guerilla journalist who wants his coins back? Or perhaps inside the “vault” where the coins held by Mt. Gox were said to be held? Then you’re in for a treat.
Next, watch Roger Ver single-handedly introduce Bitcoin to a grocer, convince him to accept it, set him up with BitPay and cryptographically purchase an iced tea from him all in one afternoon. See the grocer get a light in his eyes as it dawns on him what a future of decentralized money can mean for his business.
Erik Voorhoos in Panama, Vitalik Buterin camping, Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto during his now-famous “free lunch”: all these key players and more tell their stories in a filmed yearbook that could reasonably be called “Bitcoin’s First Five Years.”
Pièce de résistance is French for “piece of resistance” and is used to describe a highlight or main attraction. While this film is definitely that, there is also something more: resistance itself. Most individuals in the film, in one way or another, resist the paradigm that money must come from a monopoly. In doing so, they’ve created an infrastructure that has the potential to benefit all of humanity.
The film is available through a paywall on the film’s official site, and has also recently been uploaded to YouTube. After I finished viewing my shared copy, I went to the film’s site to donate my thanks to the producers. Unfortunately, they’ve posted no donation address anywhere that I can see.
And so perhaps while the makers of this film continue to promote the idea that money—that is, property—need not and should not be monopolized, they’ll also come to realize that ideas are not property, and that locking them behind “copyright laws” only slows the spread of information and—hence—innovation.
Now go pop some popcorn, gather your non-crypto friends ‘round (especially important), and enjoy this piece of literal resistance.
Watch “The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin” through a variety of different mediums via their site, http://bitcoindoc.com/
Amanda was intimidated by computers for a long time. Then she discovered Bitcoin. While the intimidation hasn't worn off, the promise of private money and free trade keeps her feverishly engaged.