The Hidden Persuaders Project has collaborated with independent filmmakers to produce two documentary films on the Korean War controversies that made ‘brainwashing’ a household word in the 1950s. We are pleased to now add a third film looking at the role of hidden persuasion in the field of advertising.

Nothing Exists Until You Sell It

Vance Packard’s Hidden Persuaders (1957) was a landmark critical appraisal of the relationship between the advertising industry and psychoanalysis. Nothing Exists Until You Sell It assesses the story of the book’s reception, highlighting its extensive and surprising influence. The film examines the history of the “dark art” of consumer persuasion alongside its contemporary relevance for surveillance capitalism, cyberspace, and the online economy. It suggests that advertising’s power is more nuanced than is sometimes insinuated, although no less alarming for that.

The full unabridged version of this film will be released next year. If you would like to contact its maker (Bartek Dziadosz) please do so at

‘Every Man Has His Breaking Point’: Reagan, Brainwashing and the Movies

The story of Hollywood’s attempt to capture the realities of North Korean indoctrination in a now-forgotten movie called Prisoner of War, starring future president Ronald Reagan. Tinline examines what this movie’s fate tells us about the evolving meaning of ‘brainwashing’ in Cold War America, while exploring the power of film to shape our memory of the past and its actors.

David Hawkins:
A Battle of the Mind

The story of David Hawkins, the youngest of 21 Americans who ‘chose China’ at the end of the Korean conflict. Combining archival footage with new oral history interviews, the film brings to life Hawkins’ remarkable experiences during this crucial period in the history of ‘mind control’. It considers the ambiguities of autobiography, using the various, intertwined versions of Hawkins’s story to shed light both on Cold War politics and the changing ways in which we interpret, and pathologise, personal trauma.