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Richard, Dianne and Face2Face host David Peck talk about Influence, fake news, lies and untruth, oppression and power, information overload, moral arcs and the politics of spectacle.

Get tickets here at Hot Docs online.

And learn more about the film here.


Influence is a profile of the morally slippery British reputation manager, Lord Timothy Bell. Born into a modest working class family, Bell climbed his way to the heights of global power, first spinning Margaret Thatcher into the “Iron Lady”, then working for the successors of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet; later branching out into France, Africa, Russia, the Middle East and elsewhere.

In 1998, Bell co-founded the legendary PR firm Bell Pottinger, which quickly earned a reputation for representing even the most unsavory characters, regardless of the circumstances. In tracking the particulars of Bell’s extraordinary life, the film examines the politicization of modern communication over the last 40 years—the winding journey from advertising to algorithms; television to Twitter.

Influence examines how Bell and his associates shaped and co-opted the very institutions on which our governance systems are premised, quietly entrenching one of the most sophisticated—and successful—business ventures of recent times: the weaponization of democracy.

About the Directors:

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 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.

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.

Image Copyright and Credit: StoryScope Productions and Richard Poplak and Dianne Neille. Used with permission.

F2F Music and Image Copyright: David Peck and Face2Face. Used with permission.

For more information about David Peck’s podcasting, writing and public speaking please visit his site here.

With thanks to Josh Snethlage and Mixed Media Sound.