Leni Riefenstahl

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Berta Helene Amalie Riefenstahl, born August 22 1902, Berlin, Germany

She started her career as a dancer; after injuring herself she attended a film and became impressed with the possibilities of the medium, and approached a local director, demanding a role in his next film. She starred in various mountain movies; when presented with the opportunity to film Blue Light she took it; her main interest was in fictional films, but in 1933, she made a forgettable short film about the Nazi Party. She was more well-known than Adolf Hitler when Hitler approached her to film the Nazi Party rally in Nuremberg in 1934. Initially she refused, suggesting that Hitler have Walter Ruttmann film it instead. Riefenstahl later consented, and is best known as a documentary film-maker for her propaganda produced for Hitler's Third Reich, especially her glorification of Hitler in Triumph of the Will. She qualified to represent Germany in cross-country skiing in the Olympics in 1936, but elected to film the event instead (this material became her film Olympia).

After the war, she spent four years in a French detention camp, but in spite of her controversial role in the Third Reich, there was no evidence for crimes commited by her. There were accusations of her using concentration camp inmates on her film sets, but those claims couldn't be proved in court. Riefenstahl attempted to make other films after the war, but each attempt was met with resistance, protests, and sharp criticisms; and so she has been unable to secure funding for her films. As a result she became a photographer after the war; she became interested in the Nuba tribe in Sudan and published a book with photographs of the tribe in 1973. The few films Riefenstahl has made since the film have been short and personally funded.

In her late 70s, Riefenstahl lied about her age to get certified for scuba diving, and started a career in underwater photography. As of 2001 Riefenstahl is still in fairly good health and lives at Bavaria's "Starnberger See".

Apart from her controversial role in the Third Reich, Riefenstahl is renowned in film history for developing new aesthetics in her films, especially in relation to nude bodies, and while the propaganda in her films repulses many people, their aesthetics are nonetheless outstanding and cited by many other filmmakers.


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