This documentary unravels the complexities of blockchain

This documentary unravels the complexities of blockchain

Trust Machine: The Story of Blockchain
Words by Claire Morley

Acclaimed film wunderkind Alex Winter is about to unleash Trust Machine: The Story of Blockchain in Melbourne for the first time as part of the 2019 Melbourne Documentary Film Festival.

Winter, who is best known for his starring role as Bill S. Preston, Esq. in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, a role he is currently reprising, is an outspoken advocate for internet privacy and technological rights.

In the ‘80s, alongside making the iconic film alongside internet darling Keanu Reeves, Winter became profoundly interested in the internet.

“The early days of the Information Age makes for very compelling stories. Cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology have enormous potential, as well as enormous hype. That in itself makes for a great story, a cultural moment worth capturing,” says Winter.

Winter created 2012’s Downloaded, on internet piracy, and 2015’s Deep Web, exploring Silk Road, a now-defunct deep web black market used primarily for illegal drug sales. Trust Machine is his third documentary pertaining to internet and technology privacy, exploring blockchain.

“I’ve been making films for over 25 years now and have always been driven by characters and theme; compelling people driven by challenging and often contradictory motives. I’ve also been telling stories in the tech space for over a decade and this is arguably one of the most important stories about the birth of the information age,” Winter says of the film.

Alongside blockchain’s broader uses and implications, the film explores the story of Lauri Love, a British ‘hacktivist and blockchain expert’, who’s fighting extradition to the United States for hacking US Government agencies, including the US Army, Missile Defense Agency, and NASA-via-computer intrusion. His alleged involvement in #OpLastResort, the series of online protests that followed the persecution and tragic death of fellow ‘hacktivist’ Aaron Swartz, has also got him in hot water.

“The idea and motives that drive cryptocurrencies and blockchain really originated in the ‘80s with the Cypherpunks, a group of computer scientists who were concerned about maintaining privacy and citizens’ rights in the information age,” Winter says.

“Lauri is a direct descendant of the original Cypherpunks and represents the lineage of these ideals at the heart of the cryptocurrency and blockchain movement. There are many people who seek to strip away the political from these technologies and focus only on the financial and industrial aspect. That’s really not possible, so having a political story at the heart of this film was essential.”

Alongside a cast of high-profile individuals from all walks of life, the documentary features musician and producer Imogen Heap, discussing the relevance of blockchain to the music industry. Heap founded Mycelia, a nonprofit hub dedicated to researching and developing ways to harness blockchain technology in order to solve the issue of unfair payment in the music industry.

“I think there’s a lot of enthusiasm right now to use blockchain-based technology to solve a lot of pressing problems. That’s generally a good thing, as problem solving by brilliant minds will lead to solutions, wherever they ultimately come from,” Winter says.

He’s quick to add that blockchain is not without its limitations and failings, and that technological advances are impossible to truly predict and plan for. If you’re still a bit confused about what a blockchain is, you should certainly rush to the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival to catch Trust Machine.

“Blockchain-based technology will serve many functions in the future; from banking to energy to basic processes that drive the information age,” Winter says. “My guess is it will end up like many things that get hyped in tech; being extremely important, totally unsexy, under the hood and not thought about at all by the average person. But I could be wildly mistaken.”

Trust Machine: The Story of Blockchain makes its Australian premiere at Cinema Nova for the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival on Sunday July 21. Tickets via the festival website.