In Trust Machine: The Story of Blockchain, director Alex Winter chronicles the rise of Bitcoin, the internet’s foremost digital currency that's uses the concept of cryptography to store information safe from hacking or modification. Narrated by Rosario Dawson, the film is an in-depth look at startups that are applying blockchain, an emerging distributed ledger technology, to everything from medical records and copyright claims to voting.
“Bitcoin has been around a long time,” says Winter, an accomplished documentarian and former child actor best known as Bill in the Bill and Ted franchise. ”It’s been very big in the tech and financial worlds since 2011. A lot of smart people saw this coming decades ago. It was technology that came from a social model to provide more of a democratized online culture.”
Winter presents both sides of the Bitcoin – those who espouse its social benefits and those who liken it to an advanced Ponzi scheme. He talks with us about exploring the perceptions and relevance of the Blockchain phenomenon.
Q: What inspired you to do this film?
A: I had been looking to do this for several years. It felt like a good time to tell this story of the blockchain movement. It’s not a cult, but it is an extreme community. I wasn’t making a movie to explain what blockchain and Bitcoin were. I wanted to tell a story that had a lot of internal contradictions. I wanted to make a movie about a circus…circuses are fun to watch.
Q: What did you learn about the proponents of blockchain and those who oppose it?
A: I was well aware of the passion and almost outright evangelism, and I was also well aware of the negativity. Many people thought this would be a way to become incredibly wealthy. Others feel we are in a transition from one period of human history to another. There are a lot of people, including young people, who are extremely skeptical of blockchain and Bitcoin. It’s more of a philosophical and political issue than a generational issue.
Q: How is the blockchain concept relevant to today’s world?
A: It’s a fantastic allegory for today’s climate. It has much greater implications than banking or finance. In the film we told the story of the brilliant British computer scientist Lauri Love, who represents the new blood of people whose world is shaped by social and political ideals.
Q: What do you want audiences to take away from the film?
A: I want them to watch a captivating story about a very compelling moment in time. I’m not out to change hearts and minds, I want people to have their brains opened a little bit.