Influence

Diana Neille, Richard Poplak, South Africa/Canada, 2020

105 minutes, English/Spanish with English subtitles

This story of influence and weaponised communication centers on the infamous Lord Tim Bell and his associates, known for their controversial geopolitical spin-doctoring. Bell 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 Bell Pottinger’s reputation to a degree beyond spinning. 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.

DIRECTORS' BIOGRAPHIES

Diana Neille is a 29-year-old journalist and media entrepreneur from Johannesburg with a master’s degree in broadcast journalism and documentary film from Columbia University in New York. She has worked at eNews Channel Africa, the country’s first free-to-air, 24-hour television news station. She was instrumental in establishing their online division in 2012 as Executive Multimedia Producer. In August 2015 she established Chronicle, a production agency and subsidiary to the Daily Maverick that is focused on storytelling and produces branded content and commercial projects in order to fund the production of long-form and investigative multimedia journalism

Richard Poplak trained as a filmmaker and fine artist at Montreal’s Concordia University and has produced and directed numerous short films, music videos and commercials. Now a full-time writer, Richard is a senior contributor at South Africa’s leading news site, Daily Maverick, and a frequent contributor to publications all over the world. Richard has won South Africa’s Media-24 Best Feature Writing Award and a National Magazine Award in Canada. Since 2010, Poplak has been travelling across Africa, seeking out the catalysts and characters behind the continent’s 21st century metamorphosis. His coming book, co-authored with Kevin Bloom, is called The Shift.

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