Sheffield Doc/Fest Review: Influence

We are well and truly living in the era of post-truth, where experts and facts play second fiddle to polemic, propaganda and targeted messaging. This didn’t just happen over the last decade with the arrival of Trump, Brexit and the rise of populism. This took years in the making. Step forward Tim Bell and Bell Pottinger, which at one time was the most influential PR company in the world. The work they did has changed the face of politics and media forever. Influence tells his (side of the) story.

Bell worked his way up in advertising and PR from the bottom, taking a number of increasingly influential positions before eventually entering the public consciousness through his work on Margaret Thatcher’s election campaigns. After co-founding Bell Pottinger, he spread his net, working for a number of high-profile international businessmen and national governments.  A canny operator, he got out while the going was good. Unapologetic is an understatement, but he’s a verbose and compelling personality.

Diana Neille and Richard Poplak’s documentary is a riveting and stylish insight into the rise and fall of a man who changed PR forever. They catch the main protagonists at a time in their lives where they’re most likely to be honest, but don’t think for one second that you’ll get the whole truth. Whilst it’s hard to agree with some of his practices, there’s no doubt that his legacy is a building block for where we are now. Influence tells the story of the rise of spin.

Influence is streaming as part of Sheffield Doc/Fest

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