Because telling the truth is also good news!
Global (20 May 2020) – The feature-length documentary film – Influence – charts the recent advancements in weaponised communication by investigating the rise and fall of the world’s most notorious public relations and reputation management firm: the British multinational Bell Pottinger.
“Influence is the kind of story that makes you question everything because it suggests that we now live in a time when the very texture of our lives can be defined, designed and manipulated by powerful forces. We may think of ourselves as smarter and savvier, but the machine of dreams isn’t done with us yet.” ~ Bilge Ebiri, Vulture.
This story of influence and weaponised communication centres on the infamous Lord Tim Bell and his associates, known for their controversial geopolitical spin-doctoring.
Bell, who started his career in advertising, had an affinity for difficult briefs and “people with problems,” as he liked to call them. He designed campaigns for unpopular politicians, dictators, disgraced companies, and celebrities the same way he put together product branding—by being concise and brutal. In 1987 he cofounded Bell Pottinger, which quickly became one of the most influential reputation-management companies in the world—until one of those campaigns incited racial division in South Africa and ruined BP’s reputation to a degree beyond spinning. Its cause of death was shrewdly described by the New York Times as “acute embarrassment.”
Bell Pottinger was accused of facilitating state capture by the Gupta family, in working to burnish the reputation of a family-owned investment company, Oakbay Investments, with connections to former President Zuma. The accusations developed into a major South African political controversy and led to further accusations of exploiting racial tensions in South Africa for commercial gain, the expulsion of the firm from its professional body, a mass exodus of clients, and, in September 2017, its closure.
Using a fascinating blend of archival footage and interviews with Bell and the people who worked with, for, or against him, filmmakers Diana Neille and Richard Poplak conduct an impressively thorough investigation into the politicisation of modern communication. Influence is terrifyingly relevant in our current era of alternative facts and theatrical politics.
There is no date set for the official release in South Africa, but you can follow their social media pages to keep up to date with information.
Watch the harrowing trailer here: