Friday, May 15, 2020

Influence (2020) Hot Docs 2020

Skyline of Thatcher's ENgland which Timothy Bell helped to create
Portrait of Lord Timothy Bell, a morally questionable "reputation" manager, ie PR specialist, who worked for Margaret Thatcher, Chilean despot Pincochet, Russia, France, various African and Middle Eastern nations as well as others with questionable motives and large wallets. He eventually went on to for Bell Pottinger which which became the go to people for the unsavory.

This portrait of a largely uncaring son of a bitch is an eye opening look at the history of the last four or five decades. It's peak behind the curtain at how we ended up here and how the work of one man ended up altering history. Through interviews with Bell and those who moved around him we come to understand how his use of PR to keep the morally bankrupt in power. While in real life the good guys don't always win, with Bell's help the good guys often never stood a chance as the bad guys had the game fixed even more in their favor.

INFLUENCE is a hell of a film. It's one of those films where as you watch it everything you thought you knew about history changes. The curtain is pulled back and important little details are revealed that give you a deeper understanding of what happened and why. Watching the film I gained a new perspective on world events. I don't think that I had anything revealed to me entirely new, but some events, like some of what happened under Thatcher, were given a new perspective and a brighter color. INFLUENCE gave me a number of "ah ha" moments where things clicked.

My reaction to getting through the film the first time was to stare at the screen and want to watch it again. I wanted to see how all the little pieces tied together and how things in the later part of the film echoed earlier revelations.

A word of warning, when you watch INFLUENCE,  and I highly recommend you do, be prepared to have a great deal thrown at you. Lord Bell was mucking about for many decades with his fingers in a lot of pots. As a result a large number of things are mentioned. It can be overwhelming as a result. Still what the film reveals about how governments and political big wigs operate now is vital, especially in these days of a media star as the head of a major world power.

Highly recommended.

INFLUENCE will play on CBC on May 21st. It will also screen as part of  Hot Docs 2020 on line festival. For details go here.


  1. Cannot wait to see this, we now know about the revelations about Bell Pottinger and what he did to South Africa. Well done to your team for this Documentary. Just hope that it hastens the cases against the corrupted politicians.

  2. A fascinating expose of a nasty piece of work. Packed with information, and I watched it 3 times, to try to take in so many facts.