This story of influence and weaponized communication centers 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.”

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 politicization of modern communication. Influence is terrifyingly relevant in our current era of alternative facts and theatrical politics.

YEAR 2020

CATEGORY World Cinema Documentary Competition

COUNTRY South Africa/Canada

RUN TIME 105 min

LANGUAGE English and Spanish

SUBTITLES Yes with English subtitles

COMPANY StoryScope and EyeSteelFilm

WEBSITE http://www.eyesteelfilm.com

EMAIL bob@eyesteelfilm.com

PHONE (514) 292-4762


Produced by
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Archival Producer

Artist Bio

Diana Neille

Diana Neille is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker from Johannesburg, South Africa. A 2011 alumna of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, Neille has subsequently co-founded two media startups with the intention of fostering long-form investigative storytelling and documentary filmmaking at a time when journalism is facing unprecedented challenges globally.

Richard Poplak

Richard Poplak is an award-winning author, journalist, and filmmaker. He has become one of the most widely read and controversial political journalists in South Africa, editing at large for the Daily Maverick. Poplak has reported from over 30 developing countries for news outlets across the world, and he was part of a team that won the prestigious Global Shining Light Award for investigative journalism.