Bitcoin Films: Exclusive Interview with Producer of ‘IAmSatoshi’

Journalist:
Calvin Tran @@clvnthbld
September 27, 2014

During London’s Inside Bitcoin Conference earlier this month, I was able to get in contact with Tomer Kantor, the producer behind the video projects of “IAmSatoshi.” Kantor is a film maker with a reverent presence. In speaking with him, it was immediately clear that this film came from a deep and personal understanding of Bitcoin’s truly global potential.

“It’s a personal project that started about year and a half ago. Originally, I just wanted to make a feature length documentary film about Bitcoin, kind of an observant style.
The more I got into it, I decided that I don’t really want to make an observant documentary, I actually want to make an exposing documentary because I do have an opinion after sitting with these people for so long.”

Along the way, he’s produced literally over a hundred videos and has been exploring many unknown parts of the Bitcoin world. These include interviews, conferences, meetups, and more.

One of his most recent works has landed him in the forefront of media attention: Bitcoin in Kenya. The 15-minute short-documentary sheds light on a part of the world that would benefit substantially from financial liberation and certainly the integration of Bitcoin. However, Tomer Kantor reveals that Kenya already uses a form of digital money: M-Pesa. Watch the short film below.

“I wanted to see what it’s like and I realized that it’s not even close to what our media is making it like, but at the same time, there is such a huge potential for Bitcoin. […] You know I got a lot of criticism for not being so ‘bitcoin-friendly’ but I think the video actually is an eye-opener for a lot of people that want to go and start something in Kenya; [T]he potential is just phenomenal and there aren’t many people doing stuff in the space, so go ahead and do it.”

For Kenya, many are used to the idea of using their phones to transfer money and this has only risen to this level in the past 3-4 years and the financial institution there is also used to the idea, but there are still huge pitfalls to using M-Pesa. Safaricom, the parent company of MPesa is a centralized business like PayPal and 10% owned by the government. When you use MPesa within their service, you have to pay huge fees, there are no verifiable paper trails, meaning Safaricom is unaccountable, and it goes to supporting a crony form of corporatism. Bitcoin could offer them a way out.

Bitcoin in Kenya is being submitted to the BitFilm Film Festival in Berlin, Germany. It may also be submitted to the Thessaloniki International Film Festival in Greece, as the theme this year is based on activism. It would be a big opportunity for publicity, but CCN is still waiting on details.

Kantor is considering releasing a second piece to Bitcoin in Kenya. In the original, seen above, the film focused on the M-Pesa System. With a second one, Tomer could focus more closely on Bitcoin’s potential and where it is now.

[divider]I AM SATOSHI[/divider]

The project of IAmSatoshi has evolved a lot and instead of being a straightforward documentary, it is more of a floating idea: While Kantor continues producing great media content, he continues to explore more and more of the Bitcoin world and the more he finds, the more he may put into the project and the more the project evolves. Watch the riveting trailer below:

Tomer Kantor is quick to point out that IAmSatoshi will be very different from other documentaries being made right now. A major critique of ‘The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin’ is that it is full of white, middle-class male Americans, which made the film very one sided, but Kantor doesn’t fall in the same trap.

“Another thing that is shown from other Bitcoin documentaries is that everything is very american-centric, where I have a spread where about 1/3 of my interviews come from Americans, where I also have Africans, Asians, Europeans, and Australians. […] I really went out of my way to try and get different perspectives worldwide and not to get stuck with mainstream american thought – not because I think there’s anything wrong with that, but just because I wanted to show a bigger picture.”

Central to the narrative is a strong viewpoint and understanding of Bitcoin. Many people who are trying to sell the idea of Bitcoin to the mainstream are pussyfooting the incredibly revolutionary dynamic that Bitcoin introduces to the established power structure. Kantor assures us that IAmSatoshi will not follow suit:

“A lot of people always say that Bitcoin is neutral when it comes to politics, which is fine; it’s not issued by any country, but it’s a very political statement because you’re undermining state currency by using Bitcoin.”

While a lot of details for the project’s finishing and release are still in the air, expect the film to be up for crowdfunding later this year to aid post production and a possible initial release for crowdfunding participants in early Spring, with a full release to the public in late Spring/early Summer. In the spirit of Bitcoin, Kantor tells us the film will be released under creative commons – he wants it to fuel more dialogues, discussion and media buzz.

Before we wrapped the interview, I asked what his most powerful experience with Bitcoin has been:

“I was on holiday in Portugal and I did a Bitcoin seminar. […] This one lady comes up to me, a Bolivian lady I believe, and she works with refugees on the border between Mexico and the United States. They are not allowed to have a bank account and they have to use Western Union and she was telling me ‘the people I work with that are very very poor, have to pay 10% on transferring money back to their families. […] I’ve never heard about this Bitcoin thing until you talked about it. Can you tell me how I can start using so refugee people can start using it?’ “

Blockchain technology is allowing communities to organize and bring people together and that’s something that we must not lose focus on. Sometimes, we may be distracted by the price, investments, and scandals, but above all, Bitcoin offers a way out of oppressive systems that have a problem with certain people living a normal life and can give people a new life.

“This project has completely changed my life. I’m eating, breathing, living bitcoin and I’ve met some of the greatest people I’ve ever met, I have some really close friend that have come out of it and they’ve all slowly become a part of the narrative of the project. Thank you to all the people who have helped me so far.”

Follow the IAmSatoshi project on their site.

Images from IamSatoshi.

Tags: Bitcoin
Calvin Tran @@clvnthbld

Calvin Tran is a filmmaker attending NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. He is interested in economics as a way to see the world and inspires him to create media that illustrates the power of freedom and technology in improving all of our lives.