Whether the crypto-currency in this documentary film is viewed as the inevitable future of e-commerce or a speculative bubble destined to burst, "The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin" makes for an enlightening primer.
Using his bitcoin-obsessed computer-programmer brother Dan as a tour guide, filmmaker Nicholas Mross takes a straight-ahead, even-handed approach to the controversial payment system.
Tracing the bitcoin to 2009, when a shadowy figure with the moniker Satoshi Nakamoto first floated the open source, peer-to-peer concept of "global decentralized money," the documentary follows a community of tech geeks who were among the early adopters.
They were soon joined by a parade of high-rolling speculators, libertarians and black market dealers who were all attracted to the notion of a currency that wasn't tied to the institutional banking system or personal identity.
Inevitably the federal regulators caught up (one of the film's subjects notes that historically, regulation evolves slower than innovation) and crackdowns and subpoenas followed.
As a result, several of those featured bitcoin millionaires are later shown filing for bankruptcy or, in the case of Charlie Shrem, former chief executive of the early bitcoin exchange BitInstant, being arrested. (Last month he pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the operation of an unlicensed money transmitting business.)
Despite subsequent damage inflicted by hackers and scammers, the bitcoin (currently hovering around $380 to $385) endures.
'The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin'
MPAA rating: None
Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes.
Playing: At Arena Cinema, Hollywood.