Leni Riefenstahl. Never heard of her. A crash course was necessary indeed. Fortunately, I work at MoviesonChatham, a research and writing group for film groups, critics and fans. This eclectic group provides ample opportunities for learning curves. The eye-opening quest to learn about this obscure woman left me feeling concerned about the fact that I, a college educated woman who is never without a book, had never, not once, heard of Leni Riefenstahl.
Then again, where would I have crossed paths with Riefenstahl, or her legacy? Continue reading Leni Riefenstahl: Extraordinary Talent Tainted by Heinous Objectives
Regarded by cinema historians as ‘the best propaganda film of all time,’ and a film that continues to inspire violent debate, Triumph of the Will linked Riefenstahl forevermore in the public record with fascism and Hitler.
—Felicia Feaster, Turner Classic Movies
Neither is there anything to be gained by ignoring her skill as a filmmaker, her place in film history, or her influence. Rather, we hope that this retrospective . . . will contribute to a discussion of the unsettling power of cinema and the relationship between documentary and propaganda, as well as the complex but crucial interplay of aesthetics and ideology.
—Leni Riefenstahl • UCLA Retrospective, UCLA Film and Television Archive
Throughout this year as we examine the theme of propaganda, it is useful to introduce a few simple concepts along the way that can help us to see why a film may fit into this theme, and if it does, to decide whether or not its communication succeeds in its intended influence given its design. Defining propaganda can help us with the first task, so that is where we will begin. Continue reading Propaganda: Activating Flawed Ideologies
Let’s say, just for fun, that the history of film is one big party. Each guest brings a gift to the guest of honor—film in this instance—and helps it to grow in technology and influence. Among the earlier “guests” who had arrived in the 1920’s was Sergei Eisenstein, who contributed Montage. If you remember from our articles on Eisenstein, montage is a film editing technique in which a series of images are edited into a sequence that employs the Kuleshov effect. Continue reading Leni Riefenstahl: Major Contributor to Film History–Can We Forgive Her?
The trouble with this tale, like so many others from Riefenstahl, is that it’s almost certainly rubbish.
—Farran Smith Nehme, The Guardian
Leni Riefenstahl has been the subject of, or associated with, a great amount of literary effort over the 101 years of her life—remembered today as an accomplished but controversial contributor to the history and advancement of film as a cultural form. The above quote likely reflects the author’s frustration in sifting through the literature.
Disparagingly called the “Nazi pin-up girl,”1 Helene Bertha Amalie Riefenstahl, “Leni,” is best known for her role as director of documentary films portraying the power of the Nazi movement (“Leni Riefenstahl”, 1973; “Leni Riefenstahl”, 2017). Continue reading Leni Riefenstahl: A Life Well-Lived–Or Not?