Richard Poplak, Diana Neille

The story of notorious PR firm Bell Pottinger and its co-founder, unscrupulous spin doctor Tim Bell. He provided more than just advertisements for his clients, not backing down from helping dictators, selling wars and inciting violence. Moral considerations didn’t come into it. ‘I’m no priest’, he said.

He was Margaret Thatcher’s favourite ad-man, and also served Augusto Pinochet: Lord Tim Bell, co-founder of public relations firm Bell Pottinger. ‘Go anywhere, do anything’ was his motto, which led him to work for Syrian president Assad, Belarusian dictator Lukashenko and many, many shady clients in between. He also designed a campaign for deeply corrupt South African president Zuma, inciting racial violence. This became his firm’s downfall, brought on by a coalition of investigative journalists and a determined opposition politician defeating the giant.

Influence is a sometimes terrifying masterclass in the dark art of weaponising communication. It is partly told by chain-smoking Tim Bell, who ducks every responsibility when confronted with the results of his work. Also with a special appearance by Nigel Oakes, founder of Cambridge Analytica’s holding company SCL Group, which helped bring us Brexit and Donald Trump. Now terminally ill, he opens up and gives an honest, very informative lecture on the influence industry.


Richard Poplak, Diana Neille
Bob Moore, Neil Brandt
Country of production
Canada, South Africa
91 minutes
Spoken language
Production company
Eye Steel Film
World Sales
Cinetic Media