Update (30th June 15:05 BST): This article has been updated with an additional entry.
The story of bitcoin’s journey into mainstream society seems practically made for Hollywood.
From its introduction to the public in 2008 with Satoshi Nakamoto’s white paper, up to today, bitcoin has endured dramatic highs and even more spellbinding lows as the community has matured alongside the technology.
With all of the scandal, tales of overnight millionaires and the captivating nature of such a disruptive invention, it should come as no surprise that many filmmakers are jumping at the opportunity to tell stories about bitcoin’s impact on people’s lives and society as a whole.
Because bitcoin is so technically complex and the concept of purely digital money is such a novelty to most people, it is sometimes difficult to communicate its value and its potential to truly change society on a global scale.
Documentaries are an approachable and entertaining medium for educating audiences all over the world on their subject matter, so it’s certainly fitting that there are a number of bitcoin documentaries in production.
These six documentaries highlight bitcoin’s different use cases, its short but dramatic journey over the past five years, and its position in a long history of financial systems.
1. ‘Bitcoin: The End of Money As We Know It’
With the invention of the block chain and the bitcoin protocol, Satoshi Nakamoto created a currency unlike any other we have seen in history. Its trustless, decentralized nature makes bitcoin a formidable challenger to traditional banking systems and fiat money.
The team behind ‘Bitcoin: The End Of Money As We Know It’ hopes to show just how disruptive the digital currency is to the monetary systems to which we have all become so accustomed.
Behind The Scenes: Australian media entrepreneur Torsten Hoffman is leading his team of writers and producers to make this a jargon-free documentary that viewers will “watch with [their] parents”. Hoffman and crew have already filmed interviews with the likes of Andreas Antonopoulos, Blockchain.info CEO Nic Cary and bitcoin pioneer and investor Roger Ver.
The film has raised about $7,000 of its $10,000 goal on Kickstarter and has an estimated release date of December 2014.
2. ‘Life on Bitcoin’
A common argument made by bitcoin skeptics is that the digital currency can’t be used to buy practical, everyday items in the same way as cash or credit cards. In July 2013, one ambitious couple embarked on a 100-day “social experiment”, where they relied exclusively on the digital currency to prove to naysayers that it’s possible to have a life on bitcoin.
Considering the strides that have been made in recent months with more merchants and retailers accepting bitcoin, the most remarkable thing about ‘Life on Bitcoin‘ isn’t that Austin and Beccy Craig started their journey just after exchanging wedding vows, it’s that they took the plunge to live on bitcoin almost a year ago, when the ecosystem was far less developed.
Behind The Scenes: Austin and Beccy didn’t have the luxury of living in a major metropolitan region for their 100-day bitcoin journey. The Utah-based couple had to convince many local retailers to accept the digital currency, and in some cases resorted to traveling quite the distance to find bitcoin-friendly locations to purchase everyday luxuries like petrol.
‘Life on Bitcoin’ garnered a significant amount of buzz in the bitcoin community, and after reaching their fundraising goal of $70,000 on Kickstarter, the newlyweds continued their journey with a world tour last fall to promote the film.
Austin and Beccy recently announced that their filmmakers, The Good Line, are in the “final stretch” of completing ‘Life on Bitcoin’ and that they have already submitted the documentary to a well-known film festival as a work in progress.
3. ‘Bitcoin in Uganda’
One of the most profound benefits of using bitcoin instead of traditional methods to send and receive money can be seen when processing an international money transfer.
Unlike services like Western Union or MoneyGram, which charge a hefty fee for their work, sending money anywhere in the world with bitcoin takes minutes – not days – and the transaction fees pale in comparison to any alternative.
‘Bitcoin in Uganda’ serves as a storybook example of how these benefits can make a real difference in people’s lives. The short film puts a spotlight on a Ugandan student, Ronald, who relies on his family in the US to send him money for tuition.
Frustrated with the slow and expensive system that Ronald has relied on for so long, his brother-in-law suggested that his wife switch to bitcoin to send Ronald money for tuition payments.
Behind The Scenes: Directed by Argentinian filmmaker Sergio Ruestes, ‘Bitcoin in Uganda’ premiered at the Bitcoin2014 Conference in Amsterdam back in May. The short is one of three films that have been produced by BitcoinFilm.org, a group hoping to make “several small documentaries” to tell life-changing stories involving bitcoin.
Ronald’s story highlights another noteworthy feature of bitcoin: by sharing the public address to his bitcoin wallet, Ronald can accept donations from anyone in the world to help pay for his tuition.
4. ‘The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin’
Those who have been part of the bitcoin community for some time will be the first to say that bitcoin’s journey can be likened to a roller coaster ride: unpredictable highs and lows, with a number of surprise twists and turns along the way.
‘The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin’ documents the events that have made headlines for the digital currency, and takes a deeper look at what the filmmakers call the “largest social-economic experiment ever conducted”.
Behind The Scenes: Produced by Daronimax Media, ‘The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin’ features appearances from the Bitcoin Foundation’s chief scientist Gavin Andresen, fallen Mt Gox CEO Mark Karpeles and the Winklevoss twins, among many others.
The film is perhaps the most publicized bitcoin documentary, having been chosen in the official selection at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, where it premiered in April. The filmmakers advise fans to sign up for their mailing list for updates on its release to the public.
5. ‘The Bitcoin Doco’
Bitcoin’s potential to make a difference in people’s lives isn’t limited to those in developing countries or speculators hoping to get rich quick. The team behind ‘The Bitcoin Doco’ hopes to tell personal stories of the digital currency’s impact on people’s lives, focusing on the diversity of the bitcoin community.
‘The Bitcoin Doco’ will strive to provide context for bitcoin’s place in mainstream society in an approachable and comprehensive manner, while putting a spotlight on some of the many community members that contribute to the ecosystem’s growth.
Behind The Scenes: Filmmaker Chris Mylrae teamed up with bitcoin enthusiast Dale Dickens to produce the three-part mini-series. Generously hoping to educate the public about what they call “part of history in the making”, the Australian duo will release ‘The Bitcoin Doco’ under Creative Commons licensing on Vimeo and YouTube.
The mini-series is still in its early stages of production, with the team actively seeking donations to support the project. Just over $2,000 of their $25,000 fundraising goal has been pledged, and supporters have until mid-August to contribute.
6. ‘I am Satoshi’
Open-source platforms have already disrupted the fields of software, education and retail, yet the banking system remains untouched. ‘I am Satoshi’ asks whether bitcoin, an open-source technology, can usher in game-changing innovation within outdated currency, trade and payments systems.
Winner of ‘Most Creative Video’ at 2014’s Blockchain awards, ‘I am Satoshi’ is a 52-minute montage that uses an investigative approach to explore bitcoin’s relationship with the wider financial system.
Behind The Scenes: So far, ‘I am Satoshi’ creator Tomer Kantor has recorded over fifty interviews across five continents for the project, including notable figureheads from the bitcoin community. Currently in post-production, the final cut is scheduled for release in December 2014.
7. ‘Bitcoins in Argentina’
One of the most appealing qualities of bitcoin is its independence from any government-issued fiat currency. Advocates argue that, in theory, if a country’s national currency were to collapse or become extremely unstable, a decentralized currency like bitcoin is the ideal alternative for citizens to store value and fight inflation.
Indeed, Argentina has seen considerable inflation and monetary restrictions on its fiat currency, the Argentinian peso. ‘Bitcoins in Argentina’ is a short film that tells the story of Argentinians turning to bitcoin as an alternative way to protect their wealth.
Behind The Scenes: ‘Bitcoins in Argentina’ is produced by BitcoinFilm.org, the same team behind ‘Bitcoin in Uganda’. The filmmakers hope to continue showcasing profound examples of bitcoin’s value to society, and fans can support their efforts by donating to their public bitcoin wallet.
Since the documentary was released last year, Argentina’s relationship with the digital currency has wavered. The South American country’s central bank recently issued a warning to citizens, arguing that there’s “still no consensus” about bitcoin on an international level.
While it may take time for governments around the world to embrace the digital currency together, these documentaries all play an important role in educating the public about the true potential bitcoin has to make a difference everywhere.