Tinseltown turns its gaze back to technology in “Trust Machine: The Story of Blockchain,” which opens on Oct. 26 at Cinema Village in New York City. However, unlike most popular media representations of the cryptocurrency revolution, Alex Winter’s new documentary film doesn’t dwell on the price of bitcoin or its frequently alleged ties to criminal activity.
The feature-length documentary, narrated by actress Rosario Dawson, does look at cryptocurrencies and related subjects such as mining. However, it mainly focuses on the political aspects of blockchain technology and why governments and the big banks fear it. It also looks at technological applications with potentially profound socio-economic implications, particularly those that are designed to help improve the lives of “unbanked” refugees, as well as individuals in countries such as Venezuela who might lack access to traditional financial services.
The film primarily chronicles the story of Lauri Love, a British activist and computer scientist who was accused of hacking into computers to steal sensitive data from NASA, the U.S. Army and the Missile Defense Agency. He also faced potential extradition to the U.S. for his alleged involvement in a series of online protests that followed the persecution and untimely death of Aaron Swartz.
Winter has built a name for himself as a director in recent years, even though he is still most widely known as the character Bill from the 1989 comedy cult classic “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.” Among other projects, Winter directed “Deep Web,” a 2015 documentary about Ross Ulbricht and the Silk Road marketplace. He also directed “Downloaded,” a 2013 look at the file-sharing phenomena.
“I’m not a mathematician, or a cryptographer or a coder. I’m old enough to have totally come from the analog world, but became very involved and interested in the internet and technology in the ’80s,” Winter said. “I came to know a lot of people in that space like the cypherpunk community going back to the ’60s and ’70s, who had been trying to solve the problem that Satoshi, whoever Satoshi is, solved. I understood what the problem and solution were before I understood it as this thing called blockchain.”
Winter said he was motivated to focus on Love because he likes to make films about people, but also about technology. “I think it creates a human face of the technological era we’re in, which is very paradoxical,” he explained. “Love really represents the cypherpunks of today. He’s brilliant, he’s contradictory, he’s contentious, he’s not an easy pill to swallow. You may not like him — it’s a question of how you respond to someone like that.”
“Trust Machine: The Story of Blockchain” was co-produced by Singulardtv, Trouper Productions and Futurism Studios.
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