Bitcoin Film Review: The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin (2014)

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Bitcoin films are just starting to take off into the mainstream. It is exciting to be a part of the early stages of this growing global network – an industry, if you will. Today, Bitcoin is in the middle of its transition from the early adoption to perhaps what we may look back on as the beginning of mainstream acceptance; we’ve certainly reached mainstream acknowledgement. And with the droves of people hearing about Bitcoin for the first time, there are plenty of questions looking for answers.

Setting out to answer them is filmmaker Nicholas Mross and his Bitcoin enthusiast brother Daniel Mross in their recently released documentary “The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin” which follows Daniel’s exploration of Bitcoin’s early days by visiting developers like Gavin Andresen and entrepreneurs like Roger Ver and the Winklevoss twins, to controversial figures like Mark Karpeles and Charlie Shrem. This film paints a portrait of the cryptocommunity from its inception in ’09 to the open-ended future prevailing past the beginning of 2014. With a running time of 1 hour, 36 minutes, this film may be a great way to more clearly introduce the concept of cryptocurrencies to a wide audience.

Also read: The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin Is #1 Documentary On iTunes

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★★★★/5

The Bitcoin Film Summary

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The movie’s opening sequence introduces the audience to Daniel Mross, a charming and nerdy father of three whose fascination with this new digital currency is appealing and endearing. Establishing a mood for the film is crucial and one of Daniel’s opening lines successfully gives us his contagiously optimistic hope.

“I used to have this shirt in high school that said ‘technology must be used to liberate the individual’ and I didn’t really know what it meant for years because I really didn’t think about it, but today, I look back, I’m like ‘oh man, hell yeah, like that shirt, I’m glad I wore that shirt because it’s how I really feel today.”

Spoken softly over intriguing shots of glowing mining hardware, anyone who is just being introduced to Bitcoin is being introduced to the “crossroads of technology and philosophy and politics and everything” that is Bitcoin. By telling us that we’re entering a realm of so many different dynamics, we are prepared to dive deeper into the industry with Daniel Mross as our companion.

The date of this starting point is May 3rd, 2012 – before Cyprus, Silk Road and Mt. Gox. We are about to embark on the wild ride of Bitcoin’s leap towards the mainstream.

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One of the key elements of why this film is successful in its narrative is that you’re following the personal adventure of Daniel Mross, someone relatable and earnest to discover the many-faceted answer to our questions.

Instead of personality-less talking-head interviews, the camera takes us on the ride from the Mross’s five-year old’s birthday party to Gavin Andresen’s house, then to a LibertyFest conference, to BitInstant’s inception in New York City, then all the way to Mt. Gox in Japan and so forth. We watch as Bitcoin turns from simply a fascination into worldwide event, with CEOs and entrepreneurs, developers and the deep web. In under half an hour, anyone new to Bitcoin has been brought up to speed and can see how Bitcoin fits in the bigger picture.

The remaining hour of the film is a deeper look at the events leading up to the post-Mt. Gox era of Bitcoin. This clears the air for anyone who may have caught a snippet of news in the past year like the crackdown on Ross Ulbricht and the Silk Road, Cyprus threatening the seizure of accounts or Newsweek’s shoddy reporting involving Dorian Nakamoto.

Something must be said for the scoring of the film. To cover a complex topic like Bitcoin, a film must utilize as much in the artist’s toolbox as possible to play upon every dynamic and composer Simon Stevens did an excellent job. The music was successful in providing the optimistic overtone to a mysterious and fast paced world of technology, crime and politics.

The Bitcoin Film Critique

The problem with a topic so debated as cryptocurrencies is that any information you find on the matter will be rather one-sided or simply cannot contain every viewpoint that is in play.

The biggest problem I see in this film is the lack of diversity. As Tomer Kantor, the filmmaker behind the ‘I Am Satoshi’ project, told me in our interview, a lot of documentaries about cryptocurrencies are very American-centric. It is true for most projects being made right now and especially for “The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin.”

Aside from a short clip from Germany, news reel footage from Cyprus, and a visit to Mt. Gox, the vast majority of this movie takes place in the US. While I recognize that a lot of commotion in the cryptocommunity so far has taken place in developed nations, there is a wealth of insight outside of our borders – take Argentina or Kenya and certainly China. It was disappointing that Mross did not include sufficient perspectives from elsewhere in the world, especially since the cryptocommunity has been selling itself as a global innovation.

This exacerbates itself when there was very few racial diversity as well and it becomes almost disturbingly unfortunate that the only black person interviewed was an anonymous drug pusher by the name of ‘MrBitcoin’ utilizing the deep web on a tor network set up in a internet cafe.

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Going by the name of ‘MrBitcoin,’ the only example of the black community in this film is a perpetuated stereotype of urban black males. It’s really a low-point in the film, for me.

While I’m not one to say espouse any racial or gender conspiracy, I believe it would have been beneficial for the Mross’s to pursue the viewpoints of people besides white males of the middle class not only because it perpetuates the prevailing stereotype that Bitcoin is for white males in middle class America, but because there is so much more to learn when you consider more opinions.

The Verdict

Overall, this was definitely a film that the crypto-sphere needed: something to provide newcomers with a clearer understanding of this technology and the community surrounding it.

I suggest this film to anyone who is interested in Bitcoin all the way to people who are already experts in the field. It is potent, it is refined, it is solid, and it sets the bar for films yet to come. At the end of the day, it doesn’t just encompass a form of technology; it captures the spirit of what is yet to come – the continued rise and rise of humanity.

Images from Shutterstock.

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