Bitcoin’s latest full-feature documentary, Banking on Bitcoin, was recently released on Video-on-Demand services Amazon and iTunes, as well as in a limited number of theater screens. Directed and co-written by Christopher Cannucciari, the 90-minute film was produced by Periscope Entertainment and distributed by Gravitas Ventures.
The most recent movie-length documentary about the phenomenon of Bitcoin dives deeply into the cryptocurrency’s roots, exploring the Cypherpunks who established the field before Satoshi Nakamoto came along.
The film covers all of the early price hype, the Silk Road drama, the MtGox fallout, as well as some more recent happenings in 2015, when the mainstream banking world started turning to the technology. The central theme of the film, however, focuses on regulation and mainstream bitcoin adoption.
Particular attention is given to the events surrounding the January 2014 New York Department of Financial Services hearings on bitcoin, and the then Superintendent Benjamin Lawsky. Both sides of the licensing argument are heard from several viewpoints.
Nathaniel Popper, the author of the the best-selling book “Digital Gold,” explained in the film that “A lot of companies complained that the regulations were too burdensome for them to operate in New York and still make money.” Jeffrey Tucker, noted Author, speaker, and entrepreneur agreed. “I just saw overnight dozens of companies that were on the verge of launching,” Tucker recalled. “They just threw in the towel and said ‘we can’t afford this’.”
The creators interviewed the reclusive cryptographer David Chaum, and looked closely at Nick Szabo’s early work. The filmmakers also included interviews from some of the earliest bitcoin adopters, Charlie Shrem, Erik Voorhees, Gavin Andresen, Nick Spanos, the Winklevoss twins, and Barry Silbert. Commentary from other key players, that turned their attention to the nascent technology later in the game, include Michael Casey, Nathaniel Popper, Jeffrey Tucker, Andy Greenberg.
The creator of a recent full-length documentary about the Silk Road also features. Alex Winter is best known as Bill from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Winter’s 2015 “Deep Web” was a self-produced labor of love for the former actor, which his friend Keanu Reeves narrates. Winter went on to give a TED talk on the same subject.
Outside of the bitcoin believers, a few people were interviewed to give opposing viewpoints, such as Lawsky, the FBI Silk Road Lead Investigator Chris Tarbell, and Digital Asset Holding’s CEO Blythe Masters. “Blockchain Technology,” Masters said in the film, “doesn’t mean that we are doing away with the need for trust in financial services at all.” Although the film notes that Masters is leading a prominent company in the space, she is portrayed as someone using blockchain technology to enrich the banks, not the world.
The opinion of a few seniors and other uninitiated people to bitcoin are injected into the conversation as well, giving the film more balance.
Distribution company Gravitas Ventures also distributed the 2014 title “The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin,” directed by Nicholas Mross. The longer, full-feature documentary paid much more attention to bitcoin mining, and bitcoin’s early history.
The film distribution company is best known as a primary source of “Video on Demand” movies, releasing 400 films a year over various sources like flight and hotel room movie systems. The company is also known to release films through Amazon, AT&T, Comcast, Cox Cable, DirecTV, DISH, Google, Hulu, iTunes, Netflix, Time Warner Cable, Verizon, Vudu and Xbox.
Alongside the two Gravitas films and Winter’s Deep Web, two medium-length bitcoin documentaries were released in 2015. The 60 minute “Bitcoin: The End of Money as We Know It” is described as “concise and informative crash course about Money and Crypto Currencies.” The feature spends more time on the subject of what makes money, and how bitcoin fits in.
A Dutch documentary television series called VPRO Backlight also did a hour-long doc on Bitcoin and the early community from a European perspective. “The Bitcoin Gospel” was released on Youtube, and it focuses on the cypherpunk and libertarian ideology of early bitcoiners.
Bitcoin has cropped up in several other movies over the years. The 2015 sleeper hit “Dope,” produced by Lionsgate Films, features stolen bitcoins, which helped the main character save the day. Then last year in Vietnam, an action movie called “Bitcoin Heist” was released. Throughout the movie, set a few years in the future, Bitcoin was used as the primary means of payment for everyone around the planet.