Cryptopia: Bitcoin, Blockchains And The Future Of The Internet


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Cryptopia: Bitcoin, Blockchains And The Future Of The Internet
"This is a film that may provide an entry point for beginners but it doesn't do so at the expense of those already familiar with the subject."

Cryptocurrency: it is, notes filmmaker Torsten Hoffmann, everything you don't understand about finance combined with everything you don't understand about computers. It's something that gets a lot of people into trouble because they think they understand it when they don't, and others just try to avoid the whole subject. Hoffmann (who previously made documentary Bitcoin: The End Of Money As We Know It) aims to clear away the myths with a series of nicely illustrated, refreshing simple (but not dumbed down) explanations. A fantastic communicator, he's just the guide you need if you're new to all this.

Densely packed with information as it is, this is a film that may provide an entry point for beginners but it doesn't do so at the expense of those already familiar with the subject, who will find plenty to hold their attention. Hoffmann interviews a impressive number of the big names in cryptocurrency, including those who may or may not be who they claim to be, and also speaks to those who see Bitcoin as little more than a scam. What soon becomes clear is that there is more personal animosity within the former group than between its members and those in the latter group.

Exploring the various points of contention around cryptocurrencies and the larger issues related to blockchain - with a look at some of the other contexts in which it can be useful - Hoffman teases out the sources of this conflict and the differences between what several of the participants thought they were getting into and what they found. Whilst some are clear headed and rational abut what they hope to achieve - or just excited by the possibilities - others come across like cult members, so narrowly focused on a particular idea that they simply refuse to engage with anything that calls it into question.

With so much to take in, viewers may overlook some of the gaps in what's presented to us. Hoffmann makes an effort to be neutral but there's a naivety about some parts of the film that suggests he may spend too much time in social circles where everyone thinks the same way. The value of blockchain as a record of exchanges, for instance, is well illustrated, but it never seems to occur to him or anyone else that there's a negative side to such a record - that there are people who do legitimately have something to hide (because, for instance, they have left an abusive relationship and don't want their new location to be known). There's talk of how cryptocurrency might be used to finance environmental progress but no reflection on the significant environmental impact of the computers mining for it. Much of the film concerns itself with a perfectly spherical cryptocurrency operating in a vacuum, with little consideration given to what happens in the real world.

There's some improvement in this regard when Hoffmann explores differing views on who the switch to cryptocurrencies - which most of the participants agree is coming - will actually benefit. Will it revolutionise the lives of those who have always struggled to get access to the banking facilities others take of granted, or simply provide another avenue for exploitation by the rich? And is the relationship between money and power as simple as it appears?

Animated sequences and varied locations - including a top secret security vault hidden inside a mountain - keep things visually interesting. The film is fast paced, demanding a fair bit of energy from the viewers, but shifts topics often enough that if you miss a bit you won't be lost for long. Most importantly, it does away with the notion that finance and computing have to be hard subjects, empowering viewers to make their own assessments - and inviting them to keep exercising their critical faculties as they do so.

This film is available to watch at

Reviewed on: 06 May 2020
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Cryptopia: Bitcoin, Blockchains And The Future Of The Internet packshot
A documentary about the evolution of the blockchain industry and its new promise.
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Director: Torsten Hoffmann, Michael Watchulonis

Writer: Torsten Hoffmann

Starring: Torsten Hoffmann, Florian Huber, Tamlyn Rudolph, David Gerard, Dinesh Paul, Jannine Barnes, Aleksander Svetski

Year: 2020

Runtime: 86 minutes

Country: Australia


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