Reviewed - 10/11/2014
The following review was authored during the week of October 5, 2014, after my wife and I had the pleasure of attending the world premier event in Cleveland, Ohio. Showing at Cedar Lee Theater on Bitcoin Boulevard, the agenda included an "Introduction to Bitcoin" workshop presented by Nikhil Chand at The Wine Spot, a question-and-answer session provided by Daniel Mross and Patrick Lope, a social gathering at Parnell's Pub, and an open invitation to the many bitcoin merchants throughout the neighborhood. Special thanks to Michael Murphy, President of Gravitas Ventures, and his staff for delivering to market this important documentary.
The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin has come at an important time when I-and the rest of the world-need it most. With today's bitcoin prices well below historic highs, the movie offers a perspective on the life of Bitcoin and its participants, and it reinforces for me the transformative nature of the underlying technology. To see how far Bitcoin has come since its inception, crammed into a 90-minute cinematic experience, was refreshing, inspiring, and informative. This documentary will be interesting to Bitcoiners and it will be accessible to those who know it only by name.
The movie tells the story of a Bitcoin enthusiast, Daniel Mross, on his journey mining bitcoins and interviewing its community members. This journey begins years before any of the media attention Bitcoin received in late 2013; it begins when bitcoins were priced in single digits. As Daniel travels across the globe to speak with his fellow Bitcoin entrepreneurs, we learn what bitcoin is, why it is important, and why it is revolutionary. Already knowledgeable about Bitcoin, I was struck by its human element and its portrayal. While it is absolutely a revolutionary technology, the movie depicts the softer side to which both techies and non-techies can relate: it shows the people behind Bitcoin who are pushing it, willing it, and engineering it forward.
In the movie, I saw my wife in Daniel's wife, I saw myself in Daniel (albeit three years behind). I saw my beliefs of liberty, freedom, and individual sovereignty manifest in those who were interviewed. However, my beliefs were also challenged. Listening to the stories of Charlie Shrem of BitInstant and Mark Karpeles of Mt. Gox, I realized that what I had read in articles and forums was not the full story. On the big screen before me, I saw devoted, hard-working, intelligent, inspired, dutiful, curious people taking serious risks for an idea and its community; this thing called bitcoin. They worked (and continue to work) with no regulatory framework by which to operate. Charlie stated, prophetically so, he was paying lawyers thousands of dollars to make sure he did not go to jail. Clearly he understood the risks involved with being on the cutting edge of this technology; however, this technology was worth the risk - and continued to be even with an ankle bracelet and house arrest. I credit Daniel for showing us this side Bitcoin.
Hearing each person's story revealed two powerful, unifying themes. First, Bitcoin is taking hold not because of clever marketing tactics; rather, it is taking hold because of merit. Repeatedly, we hear people explain their reaction to Satoshi's compelling white paper. After all, how does one dispute mathematics? Second, the people of the Bitcoin community are motivated more by its equalizing economic force than any other thing, including personal financial gain. Living in a developed nation with a mature banking system, some may wonder why a new method of transacting is necessary. The movie sheds light on this and explains that those with the most to gain are people living in undeveloped countries with no access to banks or global commerce.
Imagine having no bank account, no credit card, no debit card. Your only way to buy or sell goods and services is through physical, paper money and face-to-face interaction. Your only way to send money is through remittances that have fees of up to 30%. While I try to think hypothetically about this, I struggle to fathom what this world would be like. Yet, millions upon millions of people live this reality each day. These people are excluded from the global economy because of where they were born.
Now imagine you can send an SMS message to a person in an undeveloped nation and, in doing so, purchase something they are selling. That person receives payment via a bitcoin from thousands of miles away. Compound this over and over and suddenly the impoverished have customers. Suddenly, the economically oppressed are empowered. Bitcoin is like the civil rights movement of money. The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin depicts social and business entrepreneurs that more than understand this; they have committed themselves to the mission of Bitcoin.
The first 50 bitcoins came into existence on January 3, 2009. A scene in the movie draws a parallel between the Internet and Bitcoin. A national news broadcast from the 1990s pondered, what does one do with an "Internet?" A decade later, the world is forever changed and continues to evolve as a result of the Internet. While the audience laughed at this scene, no doubt many others, like myself, were wondering when we would laugh at Bitcoin in the same way. Surely, that day is drawing closer.
The movie closed with landmark statements by the Federal Reserve and U.S. Congress. Bitcoin was declared not illegal, nor should its growth be hindered by the U.S. Government. With a stamp of approval, Bitcoin has entered its next phase and we are all players with ability to affect its adoption. "The future is ours to build." Isn't that right, Daniel?
Following the premier, my wife and I went to Parnell's Pub for a social gathering. Surrounded by Bitcoin enthusiasts while sporting our favorite altcoin T-shirts (Litecoin and Vericoin), we engaged in many discussions with strangers, all seeking what Bitcoin has to offer. Everyone we spoke to enjoyed the movie as much as we did. All in all, it was a great night for both bitcoin the currency and Bitcoin the technology. Thank you, Daniel, for signing for me your first autograph and thank you for sharing so much of yourself and the world of Bitcoin with the world at large. We wish you, the film, and Bitcoin great success.