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Hot Docs 2020: “Influence” ★★★★


When it comes to a political affair, one or the other candidate must do everything in their power to win the trust of the public. How that will happen and what means will be used to achieve that goal is a secondary thing. What matters is the information that is about to be sold to the public, almost in the same way as organic or GMO food.

“Influence” from directors Richard Poplak and Diana Neille explores one of the most important aspects of our society and how it may function – through advertising agencies and the information they sell to people labeled as facts. It follows Lord Tim Bell, the most influential person in the PR world as well as politics who, through his infamous strategies, brought certain people victory on a larger scale. The film offers impressive archival footage, and in-depth interviews of people who worked with or against Lord Tim Bell.

Documentaries like “Influence” opens people’s eyes to the world of propaganda and how one little information can turn into a weapon much dangerous than even a nuclear bomb. For instance, the film provides an interesting perspective into the Iraq War after 9/11, how Jacob Zuma, the South African version of Donald Trump came to power, and how the same Trump would use media and information to manipulate his own base. Through the accomplishments of Lord Tim Bell, the film reveals the damning facts that literally opens up the wound of an injured society, which seems to be getting stabbed more and more by the massive manipulation of information by politicians disseminated through media.

“Influence” is a must-see documentary not just because of its subject matter but how it’s been presented. Whether it’s the racial issues or touching upon disgraced politicians, this film shows that no matter how bad the reputation is, anyone can get elected to public office if the right agenda is used and fake or untruthful information is spread across the country or the globe. For that, we don’t have to go far as we already live in an era of post-truth where dishonesty and fake news from certain people is being fed to people as the only matter of fact when in reality it is not. But when that happens, it’s, again, another way of advertising information that makes no sense but because of its impressive strategy ends up becoming more influential than truth itself.

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