The First Twenty Bitcoin Documentaries
For a technology that is only seven years old, Bitcoin has inspired more than it's fair share of documentaries, there are no less than 20 in the English language alone. If you look at any other new and popular technology around Bitcoins age, 3D printing for instance, you'll be lucky to find more than a couple.
One reason for this cornucopia of Bitcoin productions may simply be that Bitcoin's perceived promises of quick riches, and freedom from financial slavery, draws in fanatical support.
Some of these people may be looking to make a fortune from a few quick trades, while others see it as a powerful tool to bring about a political endgame. Either way, it seems that once people latch on to bitcoin, those with the proper skillset like making documentaries for a wider audience than just their home or office.
It can't all be fanaticism, of course. Some filmmakers are simply paid to talk about new subjects on film often, and Bitcoin seemed interesting enough to them at the time. Who can deny the last seven years hasn't started to sound a bit like a cyberpunk movie, with all the talk about dark markets, encryption, and digital freedom.
However, the main reason may be that Bitcoin is a harder concept to explain than other new technology. When compared to bitcoin, it's pretty easy to explain 3D printing to someone. We’re all quite familiar with 2D printing, so the concept isn't that abstract.
In contrast, few people are intimately familiar with how the financial system works, so they don't see much of a need for bitcoin. This backdrop simply requires more airtime to explain.
The very first videos about Bitcoin were all short, usually animated 'explainer' videos, that could have great production value, but simply explained what bitcoin was. For the first several years of Bitcoin's early life, films like the ever-present WeUseCoins.com video were all that bitcoin had.
The Guardian, a British newspaper giant, may hold the honor of being the first to create a real bitcoin Documentary for their video-filled website. They had already published several articles about Bitcoin, starting as early as June 2011, but on March 22, 2013, they published an interview-heavy documentary called “Bitcoin: the fastest growing money in the world.”
It was accompanied by a useful explainer video that people still pass around today, which explains what bitcoin is in simple terms. The following month they released a second film, “Bitcoin: World's fastest Currency Migrates off the Internet,” which was more of a documentary, and ran a few minutes longer.
Around the same time, right at the height of the Cyprus bubble, a filmmaking team calling themselves “Bitcoinfilm.org” released the first of their three short but inspiring documentaries about bitcoin helping people in various situations.
“Bitcoin in Argentina” was the first, with a runtime of only 8:08. This doc was mentioned in a local Argentinian newspaper when it debuted, and the local bitcoin meetup group exploded in popularity the following week. Clearly, the hype of Cyprus using Bitcoin to escape capital controls in the media that month had a strong effect.
With the popularity of Bitcoin spiking, following the Cyprus hype news cycle, it was as if every documentary maker in the world took notice. Both professional filmmakers with substantial backing, and novices who turned to crowdfunding, came out of the woodwork and started making documentaries. A trend that hasn't really let up since.
Austin and Beccy Craig announced in early 2013 that they'd be getting married and from their honeymoon onwards, and for at least 90 days, they'd live on nothing but bitcoin as they traveled the world, while a professional film crew caught it all on video.
On June 10, 2013, the Kickstarter campaign for Life on Bitcoin started, where the couple was asking for US$70,000 to complete the film. After a few months of fundraising, and short of their target goal, they set off on their trip anyway. Their great communication earned them the rest of their requested funds, and Kickstarter shows that they received over $72k.
The Craigs video-blogged many of their destinations, and troubles, along the way during 2013-14, so it's easy to see that they were trying to deliver their product.Then, for some reason, they didn't.
Post production stretched on for years, and although Life on Bitcoin has been finished, and even previewed by audiences in the US, there is still no set release date.
BitcoinFilm second mini-documentary was the next to be released on Oct 21, 2013. “Bitcoins: Liberating Organic Farmers” was a very interesting use case for bitcoin that many hadn't thought of before.
On Jan 28, 2014, near the top of the MtGox price spike, the Japanese NHK World TV channel produced what is perhaps the strangest documentary of them all, “The Impact of the Bitcoin.” While there may have been something lost in translation, it seems odd that they didn't interview anyone known in the bitcoin world, nor feature any news about MtGox.
On April 12, 2014, a documentary that seemed quite the opposite appeared, made up of high-quality interviews from known bitcoin professionals, from a startup web TV network called SQ1.tv. “The Bitcoin Phenomenon” was a huge success and now has 154k views on YouTube.
A few days later, on April 18, 2014, American TV network CNBC released their offering, called “The Bitcoin Uprising.”Smaller web channels started getting in on the action too. On April 26, 2014, the web show Teen Take released a low budget, but still good-quality, documentary called “Bitcoin Boom or bust?”
These web channel docs came from all types of people online. 'Crush the Street' is a web show for investors, and on April 29, 2014, they released “History of Digital Currencies and Bitcoin.”
The following month, on May 16, 2014, BitcoinFilm.org released their third mini-documentary titled “Bitcoin in Uganda.” It was premiered at the 'Bitcoin 2014' conference in Amsterdam, and was very compelling, becoming an instant classic. It would be a shame if this was the last film they produce in the niche.
That fall, on Sept 10, 2014, a very similar film was produced by a new film company called “IamSatoshi.” “Bitcoin in Kenya” is often confused for the video above about Uganda, although their styles are different and this one is almost three times as long.
By Oct. 2, 2014, it appears that the Japanese TV network NHK had decided to try again, with “Frontline of Bitcoin.” Released in Japanese, but with English subtitles, the quality was much better than the first one.
The following week the most popular Bitcoin documentary ever was released. On Oct 10, 2014, “The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin” was released on Apple's iTunes and within the week shot up to the #1 spot under the documentaries category. The filmmakers were invited to the Tribeca film festival, where it was chosen as an “official selection,” and landed them a deal with Gravitas films for distribution.
Several airlines have been playing this documentary on flights ever since and you can watch it in iTunes today or on their website as either a stream or a download.
Another high-quality film came out the next month, on Nov 18, 2014, but this time, the filmmakers decided to chop it up into three parts, releasing them over time. “The Bitcoin Doco” is from an Australian's perspective, and you can watch the first part for free, while the second part will cost you $0.99 in bitcoin. The third part hasn't been released yet.
Popular web TV station Vice got in on the action on Feb 6, 2015, with a doc about the “Life inside a Chinese Bitcoin Mine.” It's already earned 1.2 Million views, perhaps making it the most popular web-only bitcoin documentary.
Cable news channel CNN finally decided to join the party on Feb 19, 2015, with a Morgan Spurlock Inside Man episode dedicated to Bitcoin. Spurlock, a veteran documentary maker, directed the Oscar-nominated 2004 documentary “Super Size Me” about Junk food culture. His “Living on Bitcoin” aired on CNN and Youtube.
On May 31, 2015, the first Bitcoin documentary starring an A-list celebrity was released. Keanu Reeves narrated a very high-quality production, that was written and directed by his Bill and Ted's co-star, Alex Winter. “Deep web” was a passion of Winter's', all about the silk road and using bitcoin anonymously. It's available today on Netflix and Epix. The video was originally crowdfunded back in Nov 2013 on Kickstarter for $78k.
A new standard in quality has clearly been propagated and accepted by this point. Another extremely well-made documentary launched on July 9, 2015: “Bitcoin: The end of Money as we Know it” was crowdfunded on Kickstarter for $17k, but was every bit as good as any other documentary here. Its graphics are superb and it won two awards at the Anthem film festival. It's available for stream or sale at Vimeo and theprotocol.tv, where you can watch it for about $4 in bitcoin.
On June 27, 2015, another high-quality Bitcoin doc was released, and this time for free under the Creative Commons license. “IAmSatoshi: Ulterior states” was made by the same team that did “Bitcoin in Kenya.” It was the winner of the 'Most Creative Video' at 2014's Blockchain awards at the Bitcoin 2014 conference in Amsterdam.
Most recently, on Nov 1, 2015, the Dutch TV network VPRO screened their own documentary, before publishing it online in English. “VPRO Backlight: The Bitcoin Gospel” was a powerful video that gets into the drive behind bitcoiners more than most others. Having already received 82,000 views on YouTube alone, it's a sure sign that audiences are still interested in Bitcoin documentaries.