The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin

A documentary about the development and spread of the virtual currency called Bitcoin.

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  • ★★★½ review by Jarrett on Letterboxd

    Twenty or so minutes into this and hearing one of the interviewees talking, I thought to myself, "Man, this guy is going to be going to jail someday." An hour later I learn that is exactly what happened!

  • ★★★½ review by Steve Pulaski on Letterboxd

    Before I explain the contents of The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin, let me first try to explain how the digital currency works, as not only a personal exercise but to inform those who were like me upon entering this documentary with no knowledge whatsoever of the currency or its complex system. Bitcoin is a global, decentralized currency; the first of its kind in the regard that it is not created or distributed from a central location like the Federal Reserve or the World Bank and, therefore, has no owner or sole distributor. It exists on thousand of computers, tracking and verifying the distribution of such coins, an action referred to as "mining" by the network of individuals who engage in it. The distribution and exchange of Bitcoins is kept in a digitized ledger known as Blockchain, which is accessible to anyone engaging in exchanging Bitcoins for goods or services. The coins are issued digitally, through a peer-to-peer system of people assisting with transactions. Miners earn Bitcoins for all their hard work, but their work will gradually decrease in compensation the closer that the cap of twenty-one million Bitcoins is reached. No more than twenty-one million Bitcoins will ever exist, making it the first currency that is capped and governed by scarcity.

    The idea for Bitcoin came from an unidentified person or group of people by the name of "Satoshi Nakamoto," who released blueprints and an intricate plan to create a digital currency. His ideas were picked up and furthered by a group of equally-ambitious internet users, who effectively found ways to help him execute his plan of action by compiling together servers and processors to aid in the act of digital Bitcoin mining. The digital currency has seen its highs and lows, with prices of Bitcoins (the currency is purchased by the American dollar) fluctuating rapidly and the first, most-recognized use for the currency being on the website Silk Road, a haven for the online distribution of illegal drugs. Nonetheless, Bitcoin believers like this documentary's director Nicholas Mross still foresaw a vast future for the currency, and helped propel it to new heights through word-of-mouth promotion and recognition thanks to websites like Reddit and Wordpress, who made the daring move to accept Bitcoin as a form of payment on their respective websites.

    The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin concerns just that: the rise of the digital currency, the steps being taken to assure its longevity, that all of the labor and hard work put in by its peddlers isn't for nothing, and the process its hardcore believers go through in order to get the currency accepted at local grocery and food chains. Immediately, any skepticism towards the currency is well-warranted. For one, Bitcoin's existence is entirely digitized, and because there's no sole distributor, no consumer security is promised, meaning your collected currency is available to compromise at any time without any kind of repercussions to the malicious parties or any kind of financial compensation. Combine that with the fact that the fact that not only has Bitcoin been hacked before and the fact that Bitcoin isn't governed or run in any particular way, and you have a currency that meshes in line with the very principles of anarchy.

    These comments aren't criticisms of Bitcoin, but rather, simple observations that struck me when watching the film. The main question I left the film with concerned the filmmakers' high ambition and scope of the currency, stating it will help the countries without a stable bank system work to put themselves on the financial map. This presumably references less developed countries and countries with higher rates of poverty due to the manipulation of governments and authorities. However, if many of the citizens of these countries have difficultly affording or coming in contact with basic necessities for survival, what makes one think that they'll be able to obtain and utilize smartphones, tablets, and complex firmware that all come with the inception of an overhauling currency.

    One can't fault the key players in this revolution for lacking ambition. It's incredible to see such a wishy-washy form of finance being exhausted for all its potential in what are still undeniably the early, founding days of its existence. Part of the fun of The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin is seeing the currency touted as something with such grand potential, and it's a pleasure to see all the work, time, energy, uncertainty, and trouble that goes into not only establishing a new currency and the system of rules but trying to gain credibility in a field that seems so far beyond the mental grasp of people. I'm willing to believe we see currency - whether we're talking the American Dollar, the British Pound, the European Euro, the Japanese Yen, or the Chinese Won - as something that has always existed and any attempt to question it gets us lost in a web of tangled questions few are prepared or even capable to answer effectively. If nothing else, this documentary gives those questioning the reliability and the functionality of the system some background knowledge.

    In addition, the film illustrates the inherently tumultuous and admittedly frightening nature of the internet, where momentary missteps or uncertain choices can be met with grave outcomes, especially when a group of people decide to exploit a currency for all its worth and run the risk of breaking some law somewhere with a fierce legal battle ensuing. The brave souls who do this kind of dirty work, regardless of whether or not you support them or Bitcoin, are walking on a field of mines, some of which able to blow if a pin is dropped on them, but that doesn't stop those ambitious enough to challenge a system and deviate from its undeniable tumultuous nature.

    The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin does its job as a documentary; I walked in knowing nothing about Bitcoin and feel I emerged more knowledgeable and well-rounded on said topic. The documentary is cleanly edited, even if a bit too heavy on digital jargon without too many dependable context clues, and stands tall with one of several strong documentaries concerning the ideas brought forth by the internet and the ideology and culture the medium breeds.

    Directed by: Nicholas Mross.

  • ★★★★ review by Ian O'Gorman on Letterboxd

    Crazy

  • ★★★½ review by phreak2day on Letterboxd

    It had its informative moments but viewer beware: it's one-sided, it's not objective, it's overly positive and a little bit delusional.

  • ★★★½ review by Mista West on Letterboxd

    Already a little dated, but interesting nonetheless. Perhaps they'll make a sequel called The Rise and Rise and Rise of Bitcoin, or Bitcoin has Risen??

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