|Banking on Bitcoin
2016 - - 90 Mins.
|Director: Christopher Cannucciari
|Producer: Jon Alpert,Matthew O'Neill
|Written By: Christopher Cannucciari, Prichard Smith
|Starring: Wences Casares
|Review by: David Rolston
|Official Site: www.facebook.com/bankingonbitcoin/
Early in "Banking on Bitcoin" a bitcoin proponent has an exchange with a woman on the streets of New York. She pulls out a dollar and brandishes at him, telling him that she would rather have dollars than bitcoins. He tells her that he has recently made a 3x return on his bitcoin investment and she replies "call me in a year". At the time a Bitcoin was worth a few hundred dollars. As we embark on the year 2018, a Bitcoin is valued at over $13,300.
It's Bill and Ted's excellent crypto adventure!
"Banking on Bitcoin" is a rambling documentary that attempts to tackle nearly every aspect of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency, and largely succeeds in doing so in an accessible and entertaining manner. It hits on the major stories surrounding Bitcoin in its early days, from the scandals and legal machinations involving "Silk Road" and "Mt. Gox" to the mystery surrounding the identity of the architect of Bitcoin, a person named "Satoshi Nakamoto" who essentially disappeared just as Bitcoin was gaining momentum.
Along the way, the documentary uses footage and interviews to explain how and why Bitcoin was created, and spends considerable time on the many legal battles and controversy surrounding attempts to regulate and license it.
This section has an effective arc, and covers the path from creation, to expansion, to Wall street hearings, to New York state legislation that brought restrictions which caused many New York based Bitcoin businesses to flee the state or close outright. With that said, it doesn't really delve into the specifics of the licenses or regulations other than to suggest a fundamental problem with Bitcoin's goal of decentralization and the powers a government entity might seek to exert over it.
The film's weakest moments involve writer/director Christopher Cannucciari's kitchen conversations with his parents, ostensibly as a way of presenting the way the average public looks at Bitcoin, but the scenes do little to further the story, and undermine any narrative momentum. You are left confused as to who the people are, and why their discussion is important to the film, and unfortunately Cannucciari chose to inject them several times throughout the film.
As most of the figures in the film are either early adopters, financial technology journalists, Bitcoin investors or computer scientists and cryptographers, the film is understandably slanted in favor of the advantages of cryptocurrency. It would be easy to criticize "Banking on Bitcoin" as nearly devoid of arguments critical or in opposition to it. There are hundreds of cryptocurrencies available and actively being used --"Etherium", "Ripple", "Litecoin" and "Bitcoin Cash" to name just a few, any number of which have 100's of millions of dollars in market capitalization. The film makes no effort to discuss why these alternatives exist nor does it present any negative talking points in regards to the practical use of Bitcoin or its stability, future or possible risk.
These criticisms aside, "Banking on Bitcoin" is a better than average documentary, that takes on a complex and dare I say it, revolutionary technology which is likely to profoundly change the world in the next decade, and does so in a way that avoids seeming dry or overly verbose or falling into any of the many potential pitfalls one might expect in an examination of economics, mathematics and computer science.
As an introduction for the average person, "Banking on Bitcoin" is a smart well written primer that covers cryptocurrency and Bitcoin in particular, in a way that should leave its target audience well versed and interested in Bitcoin and cryptocurrency. The biggest problem for the film, is that it's target audience isn't likely to gamble on a program they consider complicated and boring. Hopefully, these people give the film a chance, as it does a commendable job in telling the story of the early days and years of Bitcoin in a way that anyone can appreciate and enjoy.