Inside The New Crypto Movie That Will Have Everyone Talking
If blockchain and cryptocurrency is continuing to drive a Beatles-like mania trend at such prestigious events as the Cannes Lions Festival then this emerging technology sector is now officially starring in its own version of Let It Be. Trust Machine: The Story of Blockchain is a compelling new documentary about blockchain and cryptocurrency that is dramatic, poignant, and engaging no matter whether you are working deep in the tech space, a business executive trying to grasp such disruptive changes or the everyday person intrigued about digital privacy, activism and power. Indeed, this film is about everything you wanted to know about blockchain and cryptocurrency (and some things you didn’t) but were afraid to ask.
Trust Machine is unique for many reasons but first, because it is truly a disruptive, blockchain, tech-infused project through and through from its very developmental foundation. The film is entertainment studio SingularDTV's (Kim Jackson, producer) first feature-length documentary. This company, one of the first in its class to help filmmakers fundraise, develop and distribute their content, is powered by blockchain technology and built on the Ethereum platform. The film is co-produced by Futurism Studios, led by President Geoff Clark, whose mission is to stories that showcase people, companies, and technologies that are culturally transformative. And Trust Machine boasts Zach LeBeau, Arie Levy-Cohen, Alex Klokus and Ethereum co-founder Joseph Lubin as executive producers.
The result is very solid work by Alex Winter's award-winning Trouper Productions. The film, narrated in a near pitch-perfect style by actress Rosario Dawson is, at its core, a smart look at how the particular tech sector of blockchain and cryptocurrency is changing the world and the trends to track around it.
The difficulty in taking a subject that is actually engineering and developer-based and deciphering it for the masses is no easy feat, but somehow Trust Machine takes what could be a cold, geeky mess and turns it an emotionally captivating documentary by touching various levels of sentiment precisely by connecting the plight of humanity to such technology and vice versa. This is about a very precise yet wide look at the passion, work, controversy, nonsense, frenzy, brilliance, regulation and potential future around what is considered to be one of the greatest leaps of technology in our time.
Whether examining this technology's impact on the refugee crisis and world hunger or catching JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon in mid-rant about the dangers of crypto or what can only be seen as true flubs around the discussion of the technology at times on CNBC, Trust Machine somehow puts the viewer on the edge of one's seat because it's just so darn rare that we have a chance to watch ourselves as human drama unfold in nearly real-time history-in-the-making on a big screen.
It doesn't hurt that engaging interview subjects are tapped for commentary from notable venture capitalists such as Tim Draper and Bil Tai to recording artist Imogen Heap to quantum physics guru Spiros Michalakis to even Forbes' own Laura Shin (go, Laura). But perhaps where the film hits one of its highest notes is the peppered-in chronicling of the British activist and computer scientist Lauri Love who was charged with stealing data from United States Government computers including the Missile Defense Agency. Love kicks off the film with a number of telling observations including the fact that he believes that this technology is "going to scare the sh*t out of some very powerful people."
Mark Moss, a cryptocurrency analyst for Market Disruptors and one tracking the film concurs and adds, "Since the dollar was removed from the gold standard in 1971 the United States and the rest of the world have moved to a debt based system and have created trillions and trillions of dollars of debt. This entire system works as long as people continue to have faith and trust in the system, but with cryptocurrency giving people a better option and blockchain, overall, driving greater decentralization, banks and any organization that holds power via a centralized action see this new era as a massive threat." Moss believes that most people are completely blind to what money, the banking system is really about but that the advent of such developments as Bitcoin is creating mass interest around the subject that is unprecedented. "Even if Bitcoin fails," he says, "people are now awake and aware, and the revolution will still continue to grow."
Perhaps it is such sentiment and more that inspired Winter to zero in on this controversial area. In a previous statement, the filmmaker said, "Bitcoin matters, but blockchain is really where the changes are going to come. The implications are huge if you think about it. There are huge changes happening in our culture right now. Never has something like this happened before, ever. And it is fascinating to me. That’s why I really wanted to make this documentary."
He later told me via email, "I've been involved in this world for a long time and was looking to tell a story that added to my prior two documentaries about the information age, Downloaded and Deep Web. Given the sudden popularity and curiosity about cryptocurrency and blockchain, it felt like the right time to capture this mad-moment on film. "
Winter says that there is a huge opportunity with blockchain, to help solve a lot of problems in many disparate areas, but that such achievement will require the new actors to learn from the mistakes of not only the legacy companies and institutions but their more immediate tech-predecessors on all levels. "My interest is always the people at the heart of such stories, and communicating the bigger themes and sociopolitical implications, and not in attempting to explain the 'math' of it all," explains Winter.
If this work is lacking anything it may be the fact that the only people of color (read: African-Americans, Latinos) on-screen seem to either be nearly non-existent, linked with disheveled, up-by-the-bootstraps crypto miners in Kenya or linked with a crypto scam (see: Floyd Mayweather). A missed opportunity for such a "revolutionary" movement. It would be refreshing to see the inclusion of various types of brilliant TED Talk minds or engineering personalities whose opinion and experience is deemed just as valid as those already busily carving out their positions within the new-establishment club. We can only hope that as our minds expand to embrace additional freedoms via blockchain that that same spirit is applied to a consistently wider inclusion of voice as well.
On another level, the film also gives one pause after it reveals various new applications around blockchain. Something about the segments around Eye Pay and tracking refugees via tokens is both beautiful and uplifting and yet terrifying (if in the wrong hands and applied to any number of scenarios or imposed) all at the same time.
This encompassing, dynamic look in tech is currently as almost as ephemeral as an IG post, however. Initially, you can catch the film on October 26, 2018, in New York for a week-long run at the Cinema Village and on November 16th in Los Angeles at the Laemmle Monica. Don't forget the popcorn. (this piece originally appeared in my Forbes column)