Last night the full-feature documentary Life on Bitcoin had its official hometown screening in Provo, Utah — the city where most of the movie was filmed.
The storyline follows Austin and Beccy Craig as they live the first 100 days of their post-honeymoon marriage on Bitcoin. For these 100 days the Craigs willingly had all their cash and credit cards confiscated by a camera crew, and they could not rely on family members for help. In addition, they could only ask someone to be a middleman, transferring money from bitcoin to US dollars for them, if all other possibilities had been exhausted. In every instance, they had to first try to get a vendor to accept bitcoin directly.
As you can imagine, they immediately ran into difficulties. The story starts as they get off the plane from their honeymoon and try to take a train home. To do this, they walk around the Salt Lake City airport, essentially begging someone to trade a physical bitcoin (technically worth half a bitcoin, then $43) for two train tickets (worth $12).* It’s a situation that has all the awkwardness and a tinge of the humiliation a panhandler has when asking someone on the street for money.
“Can I ask you sort of a weird question?” Austin Craig asks a man whose strolling a suitcase behind him.
“Sure,” the man says, perhaps a bit perplexed why a couple with a camera crew is filming right outside the airport.
“Have you ever heard of Bitcoin?”
So goes the constant refrain throughout the film, as person after person stares at the couple blank-faced. In almost 100 percent of their encounters they must first explain the concept of digital currency, then get the person to download some method to transfer the currency, and then help them convert the bitcoin to US dollars.
That description might incorrectly make the documentary sound tiresome. In fact, the sheer range of encounters keeps things interesting. How do you convince a gas attendant to accept a totally new and abstract form of currency? What do you do about groceries? Going out to eat? Rent? Phone service? Each encounter is a fresh experience, and the storyline really picks up when the couple leaves their hometown of Provo and travels to Sweden, Germany, and Singapore to see how Bitcoin works abroad.
Along the way, the documentary cuts to interviews with Bitcoin experts and a series of professionally animated explanations about the controversy of Bitcoin and what the future holds in store for digital currency.
Altogether, this is a terrific crash course in cryptocurrencies wrapped in a compelling story about human relationships — not just the Craig’s marital relationship but the relationships sparked from complete strangers coming together to try out a completely new way of transferring currency. We recommend the movie to anyone interested in how Bitcoin functions in practice now and in the future.
*The man at the airport ended up buying the train tickets in exchange for half a bitcoin. As of this publishing, that coin is currently worth $115. Not a bad trade for $12 in tickets.
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