Leni Riefenstahl
German film director, dancer and actress
Leni Riefenstahl
Helene Bertha Amalie "Leni" Riefenstahl was a German film director, actress and dancer widely noted for her aesthetics and innovations as a filmmaker. Her most famous film was Triumph des Willens (Triumph of the Will), a propaganda film made at the 1934 Nuremberg congress of the Nazi Party.
Leni Riefenstahl's personal information overview.
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How Führer Fav Filmmaker Inspired Depictions of Power - Wired News
Google News - over 5 years
For a truly divisive filmmaker, you can't beat Führer favorite Leni Riefenstahl. A Garbo-eyed young actress and director who caught Hitler's eye in 1932, Riefenstahl was tapped to helm the Nazi Party's propaganda flicks
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'50 Documentaries To See Before You Die': Do you agree? - Entertainment Weekly (blog)
Google News - over 5 years
That leaves no room for 1922′s groundbreaking Nanook of the North, Alain Resnais's brilliant Night and Fog from 1955, Leni Riefenstahl's controversial Triumph of the Will (1935), or Dziga Vertov's 1933 proto-study in cinematography, Man with a Movie
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A policy of engaging tyrants has its limits - San Antonio Express
Google News - over 5 years
Filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl memorialized the games as a Nazi triumph. Three years later, Hitler invaded Poland. Forty million people would lose their lives in Europe before World War II came to an end. How do civilized nations deal with hideous regimes?
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Communist-Created Statue to Honor King - Right Side News
Google News - over 5 years
Chinese human rights activist Harry Wu, who spent 19 years in a Chinese prison, protested the choice, while Ann Lau, chair of the Visual Artists Guild, said, “Lei's selection is as inappropriate as to have hired Leni Riefenstahl, the notorious Nazi
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Bam's Hollywood propaganda - New York Post
Google News - over 5 years
Hollywood's attempt to sway the 2012 election by releasing a pro-Obama propaganda film is one heck of an October surprise (“Call Off the SEALs-Ploitation,” PostOpinion, Aug. 11). Director Kathryn Bigelow will be known as Obama's Leni Riefenstahl from
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Hitler Compares Himself to Kanye West In Crazy Rant - People's Cube (satire)
Google News - over 5 years
At the Nuremberg congress, he stormed the stage and told a stunned Leni Riefenstahl that Beyonce should have won the award Riefenstahl had just been given for best female propaganda film. "Yo, Leni," he said. "I'm really happy for you
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The Multiple Personalities of the Multi-Talented Comedian Jen Tullock - BlackBook Magazine
Google News - over 5 years
It is going to be interesting when I go back in the cerebral festival circuit with My upcoming projects, like my one woman cabaret based on the life of Leni Riefenstahl. People will ask, “How do we know you?” and I will say, “I just made a dirty hip
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Kevin Brownlow: a life in the movies - The Guardian
Google News - over 5 years
He met and became friends with Abel Gance, director of Napoléon (1927); and also (despite his liberal views) with Leni Riefenstahl. Among the royalty of old Hollywood he met (and in many cases became friendly with) Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd,
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Bachmann Beats Palin at Christian Testimony - Religion Dispatches
Google News - over 5 years
Palin left her testimony to filmmaker Bannon, who is a student of Michael Moore and Leni Riefenstahl films, to craft not a religious story in the purest sense, but a testimony to her accomplishments as governor of Alaska
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Best of the Blogs: Why Are Minivans the Hot Rides For Generation X? - Wall Street Journal (blog)
Google News - over 5 years
... notion of the “Caribou Barbie” and replacing it with the image of a strong, smart-thinking individualist unafraid to take on the establishment. But how accurate is his film? And why does he say he's a student of Michael Moore and Leni Riefenstahl?
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Sarah Palin Doc Filmmaker Studied Nazi Propaganda Movies While Making "Undefeated" - Business Insider
Google News - over 5 years
And to get his style down, Bannon studied the work of Nazi propaganda filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl. People have said I'm like Leni Riefenstahl. I've studied documentarians extensively to come up with my own in-house style. I'ma student of Michael Moore's
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Google News - over 5 years
Leni Riefenstahl's “Olympia” has always been a source of controversy and confusion. The film represents a riot of emotions: it is artistic and pretentious, engaging and irritating, provocative and evasive, hypnotic and boring
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Learn about memorable moments in the evolution of Leni Riefenstahl
  • 2003
    Age 100
    Leni Riefenstahl died in her sleep at around 10:00 pm on 8 September 2003 at her home in Pöcking, Germany.
    More Details Hide Details After her death, there was a varied response in the obituary pages of leading publications, although most recognized her technical breakthroughs in film making. Film scholar Mark Cousins notes in his book The Story of Film that, "Next to Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock, Leni Riefenstahl was the most technically talented Western film maker of her era". Reviewer Gary Morris called Riefenstahl, "An artist of unparalleled gifts, a woman in an industry dominated by men, one of the great formalists of the cinema on a par with Eisenstein or Welles". Film critic Hal Erickson of the New York Times states that the "Jewish Question" is mainly unmentioned in Triumph des Willens; "filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl prefers to concentrate on cheering crowds, precision marching, military bands, and Hitler's climactic speech, all orchestrated, choreographed and illuminated on a scale that makes Griffith and DeMille look like poverty-row directors".
    Riefenstahl celebrated her 101st birthday on 22 August 2003 at a hotel in Feldafing, on Lake Starnberg, Bavaria, near her home.
    More Details Hide Details However, the day after her birthday celebration, she became ill.
  • 2002
    Age 99
    Riefenstahl had been suffering from cancer for some time, and her health rapidly deteriorated during the last weeks of her life. Kettner said in an interview in 2002, "Ms. Riefenstahl is in great pain and she has become very weak and is taking painkillers".
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    On 22 August 2002, her 100th birthday, she released the film Impressionen unter Wasser ("Underwater Impressions"), an idealized documentary of life in the oceans and her first film in over 25 years.
    More Details Hide Details Riefenstahl was a member of Greenpeace for eight years.
  • 2000
    Age 97
    Riefenstahl survived a helicopter crash in Sudan in 2000 while trying to learn the fates of her Nuba friends during the Second Sudanese Civil War and was airlifted to a Munich hospital.
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  • 1978
    Age 75
    In 1978, Riefenstahl published a book of her sub-aquatic photographs called Korallengärten ("Coral Gardens"), followed by the 1990 book Wunder unter Wasser ("Wonder under Water").
    More Details Hide Details In her 90s, Riefenstahl was still photographing marine life and gained the distinction of being one of the world's oldest scuba divers.
  • 1976
    Age 73
    She was guest of honour at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, Canada.
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  • 1975
    Age 72
    The Art Director's Club of Germany awarded Riefenstahl a gold medal for the best photographic achievement of 1975.
    More Details Hide Details She also sold some of the pictures to German magazines. She photographed the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, and rock star Mick Jagger along with his wife Bianca for the Sunday Times. Years later, Riefenstahl photographed Las Vegas entertainers Siegfried & Roy.
  • 1974
    Age 71
    Riefenstahl's books with photographs of the Nuba tribes were published in 1974 and republished in 1976 as Die Nuba (translated as "The Last of the Nuba") and Die Nuba von Kau ("The Nuba People of Kau").
    More Details Hide Details While heralded by many as outstanding colour photographs, they were harshly criticized by Susan Sontag, who claimed in a review that they were further evidence of Riefenstahl's "fascist aesthetics".
  • 1956
    Age 53
    She visited Kenya for the first time in 1956 and later Sudan, where she photographed Nuba tribes with whom she sporadically lived, learning about their culture so she could photograph them more easily.
    More Details Hide Details Even though her film project about modern slavery entitled Die Schwarze Fracht ("The Black Cargo") was never completed, Riefenstahl was able to sell the stills from the expedition to magazines in various parts of the world. While scouting shooting locations, she almost died from injuries received in a truck accident. After waking up from a coma in a Nairobi hospital, she finished writing the script, but was soon thoroughly thwarted by uncooperative locals, the Suez Canal crisis and bad weather. In the end, the film project was called off. Even so, Riefenstahl was granted Sudanese citizenship for her services to the country, becoming the first foreigner to receive a Sudanese passport. Novelist and sports writer Budd Schulberg, assigned by the U.S. Navy to the OSS for intelligence work while attached to John Ford's documentary unit, was ordered to arrest Riefenstahl at her chalet in Kitzbühel, ostensibly to have her identify Nazi war criminals in German film footage captured by the Allied troops shortly after the war. Riefenstahl claimed she was not aware of the nature of the internment camps. According to Schulberg, "She gave me the usual song and dance. She said, 'Of course, you know, I'm really so misunderstood. I'm not political'".
  • 1954
    Age 51
    She edited and dubbed the remaining material and Tiefland premiered on 11 February 1954 in Stuttgart.
    More Details Hide Details However, it was denied entry into the Cannes Film Festival. Although Riefenstahl lived for almost another half century, Tiefland was her last feature film. Riefenstahl tried many times to make more films during the 1950s and 1960s, but was met with resistance, public protests and sharp criticism. Many of her filmmaking peers in Hollywood had fled Nazi Germany and were unsympathetic to her. Although both film professionals and investors were willing to support her work, most of the projects she attempted were stopped owing to ever-renewed and highly negative publicity about her past work for the Third Reich. In 1954, Jean Cocteau, who greatly admired the film, insisted on Tiefland being shown at the Cannes Film Festival, which he was running that year. In 1960, Riefenstahl attempted to prevent filmmaker Erwin Leiser from juxtaposing scenes from Triumph des Willens with footage from concentration camps in his film Mein Kampf. Riefenstahl had high hopes for a collaboration with Cocteau called Friedrich und Voltaire ("Friedrich and Voltaire"), wherein Cocteau was to play two roles. They thought the film might symbolize the love-hate relationship between Germany and France. Cocteau's illness and 1963 death put an end to the project. A musical remake of Das Blaue Licht ("The Blue Light") with L. Ron Hubbard, a science fiction writer and founder of Scientology, also fell apart.
  • 1946
    Age 43
    Riefenstahl and Jacob divorced in 1946.
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  • 1945
    Age 42
    As Germany's military situation became impossible by early 1945, Riefenstahl left Berlin and was hitchhiking with a group of men, trying to reach her mother, when she was taken into custody by American troops.
    More Details Hide Details She walked out of a holding camp, beginning a series of escapes and arrests across the chaotic landscape. At last making it back home on a bicycle, she found that American troops had seized her house. She was surprised by how kindly they treated her. Most of Riefenstahl's unfinished projects were lost towards the end of the war. The French government confiscated all of her editing equipment, along with the production reels of Tiefland. After years of legal wrangling, these were returned to her, but the French government had reportedly damaged some of the film stock whilst trying to develop and edit it, with a few key scenes being missing (although Riefenstahl was surprised to find the original negatives for Olympia in the same shipment).
  • 1944
    Age 41
    The last time Riefenstahl saw Hitler was when she married Peter Jacob on 21 March 1944.
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  • 1940
    Age 37
    From 23 September until 13 November 1940, she filmed in Krün near Mittenwald.
    More Details Hide Details The extras playing Spanish women and farmers were drawn from gypsies detained in a camp at Salzburg-Maxglan who were forced to work with her. Filming at the Babelsberg Studios near Berlin began 18 months later in April 1942. This time Sinti and Roma people from the Marzahn detention camp near Berlin were compelled to work as extras. Almost to the end of her life, despite overwhelming evidence that the concentration camp occupants had been forced to work on the movie unpaid, Riefenstahl continued to maintain all the film extras survived and that she had met several of them after the war. Riefenstahl sued filmmaker Nina Gladitz, who said Riefenstahl personally chose the extras at their holding camp; Gladitz had found one of the Gypsy survivors and matched his memory with stills of the movie for a documentary Gladitz was filming. The German court ruled largely in favour of Gladitz, declaring that Riefenstahl had known the extras were from a concentration camp, but they also agreed that Riefenstahl had not been informed the Gypsies would be sent to Auschwitz after filming was completed.
    On 14 June 1940, the day Paris was declared an open city by the French and occupied by German troops, Riefenstahl wrote to Hitler in a telegram, "With indescribable joy, deeply moved and filled with burning gratitude, we share with you, my Führer, your and Germany's greatest victory, the entry of German troops into Paris.
    More Details Hide Details You exceed anything human imagination has the power to conceive, achieving deeds without parallel in the history of mankind. How can we ever thank you?" She later explained, "Everyone thought the war was over, and in that spirit I sent the cable to Hitler". Riefenstahl was friends with Hitler for 12 years and reports vary as to whether she ever had an intimate relationship with him. Her relationship with Hitler severely declined in 1944 when her brother died on the Russian Front. After the Nuremberg rallies trilogy and Olympia, Riefenstahl began work on the movie she had tried and failed to direct once before, namely Tiefland. On Hitler's direct order, the German government paid her seven million Reichsmarks in compensation.
  • 1939
    Age 36
    Nevertheless, by 5 October 1939, Riefenstahl was back in occupied Poland filming Hitler's victory parade in Warsaw.
    More Details Hide Details Afterwards, she left Poland and chose not to make any more Nazi-related movies.
    When Germany invaded Poland on 1 September 1939, Riefenstahl was photographed in Poland wearing a military uniform and a pistol on her belt in the company of German soldiers; she had gone to Poland as a war correspondent.
    More Details Hide Details On 12 September, she was in the town of Końskie when 30 civilians were executed in retaliation for an alleged attack on German soldiers. According to her memoir, Riefenstahl tried to intervene but a furious German soldier held her at gunpoint and threatened to shoot her on the spot. She claimed she did not realize the victims were Jews. Closeup photographs of a distraught Riefenstahl survive from that day.
  • 1938
    Age 35
    She arrived in New York City on 4 November 1938, five days before Kristallnacht (the "Night of the Broken Glass").
    More Details Hide Details When news of the event reached the United States, Riefenstahl publicly defended Hitler. On 18 November, she was received by Henry Ford in Detroit. Olympia was shown at the Chicago Engineers Club two days later. Avery Brundage, President of the International Olympic Committee, praised the film and held Riefenstahl in the highest regard. She negotiated with Louis B. Mayer, and on 8 December, Walt Disney brought her on a three-hour tour showing her the ongoing production of Fantasia. From the Goebbels Diaries, researchers learned that Riefenstahl had been friendly with Joseph Goebbels and his wife Magda, attending the opera with them and going to his parties. Riefenstahl maintained that Goebbels was upset when she rejected his advances and was jealous of her influence on Hitler, seeing her as an internal threat. She therefore insisted his diary entries could not be trusted. By later accounts, Goebbels thought highly of Riefenstahl's filmmaking but was angered with what he saw as her overspending on the Nazi-provided filmmaking budgets.
    Olympia premiered for Hitler's 49th birthday in 1938.
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  • 1937
    Age 34
    In February 1937, Riefenstahl enthusiastically told a reporter for the Detroit News, "To me, Hitler is the greatest man who ever lived.
    More Details Hide Details He truly is without fault, so simple and at the same time possessed of masculine strength".
  • 1936
    Age 33
    Hitler invited Riefenstahl to film the 1936 Summer Olympics scheduled to be held in Berlin, a film which Riefenstahl claimed had been commissioned by the International Olympic Committee.
    More Details Hide Details She visited Greece to take footage of the route of the inaugural torch relay and the games' original site at Olympia, where she was aided by Greek photographer Nelly's. This material became Olympia, a hugely successful film which has since been widely noted for its technical and aesthetic achievements. She was one of the first filmmakers to use tracking shots in a documentary, placing a camera on rails to follow the athletes' movement. The film is also noted for its slow motion shots. Riefenstahl played with the idea of slow motion, underwater diving shots, extremely high and low shooting angles, panoramic aerial shots, and tracking system shots for allowing fast action. Many of these shots were relatively unheard of at the time, but Leni’s use caused many of them to become, and is the reason why they are still used to this day. Riefenstahl's work on Olympia has been cited as a major influence in modern sports photography. Riefenstahl filmed competitors of all races, including African-American Jesse Owens in what later became famous footage.
  • 1935
    Age 32
    Despite allegedly vowing not to make any more films about the Nazi Party, Riefenstahl made the 28-minute Tag der Freiheit: Unsere Wehrmacht ("Day of Freedom: Our Armed Forces") about the German Army in 1935.
    More Details Hide Details Like Der Sieg des Glaubens and Triumph des Willens, this was filmed at the annual Nazi Party rally at Nuremberg. Riefenstahl said this film was a sub-set of Der Sieg des Glaubens, added to mollify the German Army which felt it was not represented well in Triumph des Willens.
  • 1934
    Age 31
    Impressed with Riefenstahl's work, Hitler asked her to film Triumph des Willens ("Triumph of the Will"), a new propaganda film about the 1934 party rally in Nuremberg.
    More Details Hide Details More than one million Germans participated in the rally. Initially, according to Riefenstahl, she resisted and did not want to create further Nazi Party films, instead wanting to direct a feature film based on Hitler's favourite opera, Eugen d'Albert's Tiefland ("Lowlands"). Riefenstahl received private funding for the production of Tiefland, but the filming in Spain was derailed and the project was cancelled. Hitler was able to convince her to film Triumph des Willens on the condition that she would not be required to make further films for the party, according to Riefenstahl. The motion picture was generally recognized as an epic, innovative work of propaganda filmmaking. The film took Riefenstahl's career to a new level and gave her further international recognition. In interviews for the 1993 documentary The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl, Riefenstahl adamantly denied any deliberate attempt to create Nazi propaganda and said she was disgusted that Triumph des Willens was used in such a way.
  • 1933
    Age 30
    After meeting Hitler, Riefenstahl was offered the opportunity to direct Der Sieg des Glaubens ("The Victory of Faith"), an hour-long propaganda film about the fifth Nuremberg Rally in 1933.
    More Details Hide Details Riefenstahl agreed to direct the movie. She and Hitler got on well, forming a friendly relationship. The propaganda film was funded entirely by the NSDAP.
  • 1932
    Age 29
    Riefenstahl heard Nazi Party (NSDAP) leader Adolf Hitler speak at a rally in 1932 and was mesmerized by his talent as a public speaker.
    More Details Hide Details Describing the experience in her memoir, Riefenstahl wrote, "I had an almost apocalyptic vision that I was never able to forget. It seemed as if the Earth's surface were spreading out in front of me, like a hemisphere that suddenly splits apart in the middle, spewing out an enormous jet of water, so powerful that it touched the sky and shook the earth".
    Riefenstahl produced and directed her own work called Das Blaue Licht ("The Blue Light") in 1932, co-written by Carl Mayer and Béla Balázs.
    More Details Hide Details This film won the Silver Medal at the Venice Film Festival, but was not universally well-received, for which Riefenstahl blamed the critics, many of whom were Jewish. Upon its 1938 re-release, the names of Balázs and Sokal, both Jewish, were removed from the credits; some reports claim this was at Riefenstahl's behest. In the film, Riefenstahl played an innocent peasant girl who is hated by the villagers because they think she is diabolic and cast out. She is protected by a glowing mountain grotto. According to herself, Riefenstahl received invitations to travel to Hollywood to create films, but she refused them in favour of remaining in Germany with a boyfriend. The film attracted the attention of Hitler, who believed she epitomized the perfect German female. He saw talent in Riefenstahl and arranged a meeting. In 1933, Riefenstahl appeared in the U.S.-German co-productions of the Arnold Fanck-directed, German-language SOS Eisberg and the Tay Garnett-directed, English-language SOS Iceberg. The movies were filmed simultaneously in English and German and produced and distributed by Universal Studios. Her role as an actress in SOS Iceberg was her only English language role in film.
  • 1929
    Age 26
    One of Fanck's films that brought Riefenstahl into the limelight was Die Weisse Hölle vom Piz Palü ("The White Hell of Piz Palü") of 1929, co-directed by G. W. Pabst.
    More Details Hide Details Her fame spread to countries outside Germany.
  • 1926
    Age 23
    Riefenstahl later received a package from Fanck containing the script of the 1926 film Der Heilige Berg ("The Holy Mountain").
    More Details Hide Details She made a series of films for Fanck, where she learned from him acting and film editing techniques.
  • 1924
    Age 21
    It was while going to a doctor's appointment that she first saw a poster for the 1924 film Der Berg des Schicksals ("The Mountain of Destiny").
    More Details Hide Details She became inspired to go into movie making, and began visiting the cinema to see films and also attended film shows. On one of her adventures, Riefenstahl met Luis Trenker, who was an actor from Der Berg des Schicksals. At a meeting arranged by her friend Gunther Rahn, she met Arnold Fanck, the director of Der Berg des Schicksals and a pioneer of the mountain film genre. Fanck was working on a film in Berlin. After Riefenstahl told him how much she admired his work, she also convinced him of her acting skill. She persuaded him to feature her in one of his movies.
  • 1918
    Age 15
    In 1918, when she was 16, Riefenstahl attended a presentation of Snow White which interested her deeply; it led her to want to be a dancer.
    More Details Hide Details Her father instead wanted to provide his daughter with an education that could lead to a more dignified occupation. His wife, however, continued to support her daughter's passion. Without her father's knowledge, she enrolled Riefenstahl in dance and ballet classes at the Grimm-Reiter Dance School in Berlin, where she quickly became a star pupil. Riefenstahl attended dancing academies and became well known for her self-styled interpretive dancing skills, traveling across Europe with Max Reinhardt in a show funded by Jewish producer Harry Sokal. Riefenstahl often made almost 700 Reichmarks for each performance and was so captivated with dancing that she gave filmmaking no thought. She began to suffer foot injuries that led to knee surgery, threatening her dancing career.
  • 1902
    Helene Bertha Amalie Riefenstahl was born in Germany on 22 August 1902.
    More Details Hide Details Her father, Alfred Theodor Paul Riefenstahl, owned a successful heating and ventilation company and wanted his daughter to follow him into the business world. Since Riefenstahl was the only child for several years, Alfred wanted her to carry on the family name and secure the family fortune. However, her mother, Bertha Ida (Scherlach), who had been a part-time seamstress before her marriage, had faith in Riefenstahl and believed that her daughter's future was in show business. Riefenstahl had a younger brother, Heinz, who was killed at the age of 39 on the Eastern Front in Nazi Germany's war against the Soviet Union. Riefenstahl fell in love with the arts in her childhood. She began to paint and write poetry at the age of four. She was also athletic, and at the age of twelve joined a gymnastics and swimming club. Her mother was confident her daughter would grow up to be successful in the field of art and therefore gave her full support, unlike Riefenstahl's father, who was not interested in his daughter's artistic inclinations.
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