Trailer | ‘Influence’ explores the controversial agency Bell Pottinger and it’s digital scandal in South Africa


'Influence' explores the controversial agency Bell Pottinger and it's digital scandal in South Africa
'Influence' explores the controversial agency Bell Pottinger and it's digital scandal in South Africa

The official trailer for the critically acclaimed documentary ‘Influence’ – which premiered at Sundance Festival in January- has been released to the public. The feature tells the story of controversial advertising and public relations executive Timothy Bell and his agency Bell Pottinger – the same agency that was accused of facilitating state capture by the Gupta family.

In 2017, the Sunday Times alleged that Bell Pottinger was behind a social media strategy, using a network of fake bloggers, commentators and Twitter users to influence public opinion, exacerbate racism, and incite racial division in South Africa, as well as targeting media and personalities that were opposed to the Gupta family, on their client’s behalf.

The aim of their entire campaign was to portray the Gupta family as victims of “white monopoly capital” conspiracies and to deflect accusations and evidence of their client’s involvement in corruption and state capture.

The accusations developed into a major political controversy and in September 2017, led the closure of the agency.

As Sundance describes it, ‘Influence’ is a story of the power of influence and the “weaponized communication centres of the infamous Lord Tim Bell and his associates, known for their controversial geopolitical spin-doctoring.

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Influence explores the controversial agency Bell Pottinger and it's digital scandal in South Africa

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 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.

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.” – Sundance

Influence airs this month, for more details on where you can watch the premiere online, click here. Watch the official trailer below and read more on the latest entertainment news, right here.

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